Translation of an interview with The Foolish Bird director Huang Ji

The Foolish Bird was one of our favourite films from 2017. We recently came across a very interesting interview with the film’s director Huang Ji on YouTube, in which the director discusses the film and her motivations in making it. It really does provide a fascinating insight into the process and motivations of this talented woman. Below is our translation:

I’m Huang Ji, and I’m the director of the ‘The Foolish Bird’. It’s a film about a 17-year-old left-behind girl. We took the film to Berlin [film festival], where we won a judge’s award.

Because I myself grew up as a left-behind child, by making these films [about left behind children], I’ve slowly been able to heal myself.

From the beginning, I never had a normal life together with my parents. I spent the time with my grandparents.

My mother, when she was away working, she didn’t return home for eight years. When she would occasionally come and visit, she would frequently have bought clothes for me that I’d already grown too big for.

In middle school and high school, I would date lots of different guys, because I thought that if I was with them, they would care about me.

At that time, I had one boyfriend I really liked. The first time that we had sex, he said to me ‘why didn’t you bleed?’ and then he just left, leaving me in that room.

Now at that time I really felt very very hurt, because that really was my first time.

So, this extremely unjust situation with that old boyfriend, this kind of relationship, we [her and husband Ryuji Otsuka] took it and put it on display in ‘The Foolish Bird’.

I really must thank my husband, he really pushed me to go and meet with my old boyfriend.

When we met, I asked him ‘why did you treat me like that?’

His answer was not what I expected. He said that, back then, all of his friends would treat their girlfriends that way.

Really, all it needs is for men and women to be together, and it’s possible there will be this kind of sexual repression.

For people who’ve been similarly hurt, they all will think that this was there fault. Lots of girls, they will tell me honestly, that when it comes to sex they’ve had a lot of pain.

After [hearing such stories], I just felt that I should take my story and tell it, film it. Because, now I have my own child.

She too is going through the process of growing up, and naturally one day she too will be start being interested in her sexuality.

So, when that time comes, how best to say to her? This is also one of the main topics of ‘The Foolish Bird’.

Because my film is all shot in my hometown in Hunan. It’s just a small town.

The result is that at a very very remote middle school, we discovered her [lead actress Yao Honggui]. The first time that I came into contact with her, I thought that her face looked particularly beautiful.

I’m just like a big sister to her, and sometimes like a mother.

For example, sometimes we’ll even talk about self-care [masturbating]!

At first [when talking about the role], I just asked her what kind of boy she likes, just talking like good friends. So that when she acts, she will feel that this character is one that we both created.

Because, the actors we use are all very professional, but we use this kind of small scale company method to shoot our films.

My grandfather plays a grandfather, the actor who plays the teacher was my high school teacher, and now Honggui’s teacher. All the girls who bully the main character, they are also students at that school.

If I didn’t make movies, I’d maybe be carrying a lot of weight on my shoulders. But, as I went through the process of making movies and lifting this weight off my shoulders, other people gave me so much more courage and strength.

Just like one time, after a screening had finished, a member of the audience came over and said ‘this is the first time I’ve watched a film and cried’. He said it’s not because he’d been the victim, but because ‘The Foolish Bird’ was one of our favourite films from 2017. Read our translation of a fascinating interview with director Huang Ji, as she reveals her motivations and process in making the film.he’d been the perpetrator. But he said when he’d finished watching the film, he decided he had to say sorry to her [his victim].

So, I really need to thank cinema. Even though I’m not rich, I can take the hardship.

Translation by The Chinese Cinema Blog

All credit to 一条 YIT for the interview, which you can  watch below.