Tian Tsering: I try and tried to do independent stuff my way

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Chinese director Tian Tsering visited Zlín Film Festival for the second time. Few years ago, he won with his film Barley Fields on the other Side of the Mountains, this time he was a jury member. We knew nothing about him but wanted to get to know him and find something about his attitude and work. He was very modest and we liked his independent attitude.

You were born in China in 1988 but studied camera at London Film School. Does it mean that you moved from China since you didn´t like it there or moved out in order to study film since there was nothing such in your country?

There were established film schools in China but I wanted to go abroad, learn English and study business that is why I moved to London. It didn´t mean that I didn´t like it in China. So, I intended to study business but than changed my mind and got to study filmmaking. I was in England thanks to support of my family and as a foreign student I had students´ loans.

Why did you choose England and not America and when did you start to be interested in film? Did you have a chance to go to movies when you were a small boy and were that foreign films or only Chinese?

I didn´t have that many options at that time, it was either England or Australia and I wanted to go to Europe, since there are different people, different culture and I was never really interested in America. I would like to travel around that country but I wouldn´t want to live there. In China I was going a lot to the cinemas and we have watched films from all over the world, lots of those blockbusters, because of the distributions and China is big market for the film. I grew up watching lots of Chinese films and also lot of Iranian films, I love them.

What do you love at them?

I just feel connected with the topic and like the tempo and the way film is made, simply and slowly, which suits me. I am not too smart in fast films I like slow pace cinema.

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So, you never really liked classic films by Fellini and other masters?

I did but you had to find your way how to get copy which wasn´t always easy.

Now do you live and work in England or you moved back to China and work there with Chinese crew for Chinese money?

No, no, I never worked in China. England is like my temporary home now. Since I studied photography, I am a freelancer and do cinematography or photography to pay bills. Bit of this and that, really.

China is very expanding country in all departments. What is the platform for local directors, cinematographers?

Well, I don´t think I am an expert for these questions since, as I said, I never worked as a filmmaker there. But my understanding is that independent filmmaking is not supported by the state but I am sure they get support for young art projects.

Is filmmaking supported by Chinese government or they are afraid you may say in your film what they don´t want to hear or let out?

There is censorship system so they are not afraid since if they don´t like you or what you say in your film, they just shut you down.

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It took you seven years to complete your debut Barley Fields on the other Side of the Mountains. Why so long, did you make deep research, or could not find money, crew or were in troubles with authorities?

Little bit of everything really. There was no funding and the way I wanted to make it was very personal so to get money and people´s trust took a long time. I tried and try to do independent stuff my way but when I work for other people, I just basically do what ever they ask me to do since they pay me for that.

We didn´t see that movie but what led you to such topic and did you have problems with world wide distributions?

My film had problems to find distributors not because of the title but because of the way it was made and it is not very good commercial topic. But I won with it in Zlín Festival couple years ago. It was showed in India, Toronto and other film festivals so experience of making this film really paid off since I learnt a lot.

So now with gained experience do you work on some other project?

Yes, I am just writing script for my future film.

Is it difficult for you, Chinese filmmaker, to understand the Western mentality and make a film they would understand and be interested in?

For me, it´s not a problem, since I live in England for 14 years, so I perfectly understand Western mentality. Obviously, there was and is the gap between Chinese audience and Western culture but with current technology and market the gap is getting smaller and smaller.

What is more important to you, make a film about Chinese life, culture and history to promote your country and pay back what they gave you or make some commercially successful film which would make you internationally recognised and wanted artist?

No, not such thing, I don´t owe China anything. Obviously, I would like to make a film about Chinese history or culture but not for the mentioned reason. I have my own company but I am a freelance and one -man army, but when I make film I hire people, mostly my friends who help me with writing, shooting, editing, but I have no desire to make name for myself only to be hired by big studios. No one invested in me so I want to do things my way.

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Do you have any idols in cinematography?

Yes, I worship Iranian directors Hou Hsiao Hsian and Abbas Karostami. I very much appreciate their films, especially early films.

Is it said that this time is the best for film since almost everybody can make a film with current technology, what is your view?

I am an old school film maker and I am proud to admit that. Although I appreciate the technology which enables films to be shown around the world and on film festival, the more the better, I like to make films “proper” way, in slower tempo. But obviously technology is progressing and moving forward so I more or less have to adapt to it, even though I like the old way. But cinematography is technologically in first line so if I want to work in it, I have to go with the flow.

Thank you.


Photos: authors and Zlín Film Festival