Closer to Me, Closer to My Dreams - Ray Pang

I first came across Ray’s name in a film screening at the Substation. His film ‘One’ stood out as a gangster-flick so deftly crafted and earthly in its blood that I knew he was someone to watch. The film, one of his first, distinguishes itself from many other indie ‘firsts’ with the unflinching mark of HK triad films, crisp editing and an effortless ‘crudeness’. It also bears several nicely crafted shots.

Several years forward and some struggles later, things are certainly looking up for Ray. His film ‘The Team’ won the Best Film in the Cine65 Open category in 2011 and a more recent short ‘Closer to Me’ got shortlisted for the worldwide Louis Vuitton Journeys. This film is also bringing him to Cannes Film Festival this year. It will be screened in the ‘Short Film Corner’ segment of the festival.

‘Closer to Me’ is a 4 min film about losing the ones you love from terminal illness. The films essentially tracks the emotional journey of a man who’s lost both his wife and son and we are brought down to the depths of his longing and sorrow. Despite the fact that the actor is a regular face who plays sidekicks on Channel 8, he still manages to pull in an honest performance.

My half-hour call to Ray reinforces the fact that many filmmakers are simply products of their own life experience. There is nothing too enigmatic about them and their works. Ray comes with a mixed bag of experiences and it shows in the wide range of genres in his short films. ‘One’ is a gangster-flick attempt, ‘The Team’ brings us some kiddy cheer with the humour of ‘child politics’ and ‘Closer to Me’ is brings us back to very basic feelings of kinship. Ray shares that he is close to family and values his family a lot. At the same time, he’s had the freedom and exposure of living overseas.

‘Closer to Me’ was born out of a particular near-death experience when he was living overseas. He recounts an episode where some pains brought him to the doctor and he was under the impression that he might have contracted lung cancer or some equivalently life-threatening disease. There was an overgrowth, the size of a 10-cent coin found somewhere near his lungs. The thought of possible fatality spooked Ray and made him suddenly all reflective about life. Eventually, it turned to be just tuberculosis. ‘Closer to Me’ is a manifestation of that morbid cliffhanging moment in Ray’s life.

‘Closer to Me’ is not a representation of the stories Ray typically likes to tell. Ray likes stories or characters with a dark streak. Strangely, he comes across as a straight forward, you-get-what-you-see kind of guy whom you would least expect to like twisted characters. From the range of genres of Ray’s films, my guess he is still having fun experimenting but given the budget, you can expect a full-blown thriller out of him.

One thing’s for sure in all his films, he knows how to stoke that flame in his actors to cook up some strong chemistry on screen. He’s probably a good casting director too, knowing who to best bring out what he wants. In ‘Closer to You’, there are 3 actors, only one (the father) is experienced – the father who happens to be the main character. The boy talent is actually an acting student of the talent who played the father and they naturally had strong chemistry. Drawing on his own personal experience, he drew his talents into the world that he wanted the audience to inhabit – one of longing.

Here is a making-of featurette in which Ray and his actors are interviewed and asked to share their own journey in this film.
Ray’s own journey in filmmaking can be a story in which patience yields a payoff to those who bear it. Having started with a couple of short films that received only moderate attention, he went on to study film to give himself a higher stead. However, job offers were patchy and no one really took notice till he took part in the Cine65 short film competition and won in the Open category. That win brought along substantial projects in TV including telemovies. Ray is excited to take his films to the next level when he meets foreign money and support at Cannes. Let’s wish him all the luck in his courtship!

Ray has a blog and you can read more about his journey here.

Interview by Jeremy Sing

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