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Interview with director Jinwu He

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

When I was in college, I majored in directing films. So since then the concept that films are about telling stories has embedded in my mind. But how to tell a good story and in which way it should be told are something I have been trying and learning all the time. Also, from that time on, the passion for films has made me clearly realize that being a director is my life goal and future direction.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Films are all made by people, but before making a film, you have to be equipped with some basic concepts about how to make a film. One of the ways is to attend a cinema college. An excellent film-maker should have both basic theories and extensive practice so that he/she can produce good work. No matter what life stage you’re in, being successful or not, the only difference is that at a different age with a different level of cognitive capability, your understanding and comprehension of things varies. So maybe it’s the same book or the same knowledge, but what you can gain from it is different. So I believe no matter what profession we take and what life stage we are in, constant learning is necessary.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

In China, there is a saying “It’s the first step that causes pain”. But in my opinion, the following steps are not easy either. Making a film, generally speaking, is difficult. It’s just the extent of difficulty changes, depending on the circumstances for each film. But it’s always the team work that solves problems. The crew is like a family, and the director is the parent of the family. He or she is the core and spiritual leader of the team, which determines that his or her responsibility is to handle the problems and lead the members of this big family to go through difficult times, and then to reflect his or her ideas and beliefs in the film.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

There are many well-known Chinese directors, such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Karwai Wong, Zhangke Jia and Lou Ye, whose films have great influence on me. Films are actually a form of self-expression. Each life stage and experience will give me all sorts of enlightenments and inspirations which are not always necessarily positive. But these thoughts need an outlet, so films are my outlet. They are the embodiment of my understanding of world. Through directing films, I can express feelings and thoughts, my life experience and growth, the relationship between man and the world, and the relationship among human beings. I often think a lot and the thinking is non-stopping. At the same time, films offer me some input and a channel of output.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

In terms of choosing actors and actresses, I don’t care whether they are professional or not, instead, I only care about their suitability of the role. My priority lies in the resemblance or closeness between the actors/actresses and the characters.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

I think the most difficult phase in making a film is the first stage, from zero to one. Starting from an abstract idea, to writing the script, and to choosing the form of expression, they require the most efforts. Every step requires a lot of consideration and every day is full of decisions to make, choosing the team members and scheduling everything, etc.

Then the post production phase is also difficult. Choose the filmed materials, background music and the general hue of the film and so on. How to combine them altogether to make it a good film. These are all very hard.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Film-making is all about team work. When I am picking team members, I will choose kindred spirits who share the same aesthetic taste with me and whom are easy to communicate with. Since we agree with each other on most of the things and can get along well, we don’t have to deliberately spend some extra efforts and time in establishing a good relationship when we are working. Everything just comes naturally. And we will actively and positively discuss how to solve problems.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Generally speaking, I believe directors are first an artist who should be always faithful to expressing his/her own ideas. So he/she spends most of the time on contemplating about what he or she wants to say, instead of what the audience would like. But there’s some differences between art films and commercial films. The director of a commercial film, of course should considerate the acceptance of viewers. But for an art film director, his/her focus should be on self-expression. He/she should be a pioneer new stuff. Through what learnt and sensed, he/she can show the audience what is good, beautiful, kind and high-end. There are different requirements for the two different types of film makers.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Film festivals are wonderful for film-makers. We are expecting all the film festivals. During which, we can meet extraordinary peers, and appreciate their work. Most importantly, we can have a chance to communicate. There’s nothing better than this. After the events, we all go back to our day to day work, to love, to struggle, to be frustrated. And when we finally see our work, we will be thrilled and moved.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Film-making is a sacred profession. It’s one of the best. The final objective for film-makers is to express. If there is no originality and creativity in it, it would be stale and pale. We respect the classic, but we also need to innovate so that there will be new classic.


The Taste of Love | China | 2018 | 24’

Director: Jinwu HE           

Writers: Tao ZHENG, Xiangxin LI 

Producer: Min ZHANG    

Key Cast: Luqi PENG, Yinzhang ZHU          

Synopsis: The Taste of Love tells a story about the male lead, Jianjun played by Yingzhang Zhu. He came from an unprivileged family, making a living by selling crispy ducks, but he was longing to change his fate. Yinhe, the female lead played by Luqi Peng, went to Guizhou with her parents when she was 20. She gradually fell in love with Jianjun, the country boy, whom she found simple, authentic and unpretentious, and she wanted to be with him.