// A wundrful collaboration with Singapore based photographer Franz N and Hogan //
Hong Kong Trilogy may be her first feature film, but Jenny Suen is making waves in the international film festival circuit alongside legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle.
You spent time in Los Angeles working in the film industry before returning home. What is Hong Kong to you?
Hong Kong to me is a sea. It’s the energy and rhythm of the waves, the juxtaposition of frenzy and peace. In LA, it’s practically impossible to run into people by chance, and there’s no real spontaneity; things don’t happen unless you plan them. But in Hong Kong, no matter if you’re rich or poor, you share the same space – because there is no space. When different people and different energies intersect, the possibilities are endless and that concept fascinates me. I think that’s what makes Hong Kong so special, and that’s why I came back.
You recently premiered your film Hong Kong Trilogy with Christopher Doyle. Tell me about the inspiration behind the film.
We spent one year interviewing one hundred Hong Kong people to talk about their lives. We wanted to know what our city has become, so we went to the streets to ask, “What is Hong Kong?” We created a space for people who wanted to express themselves and let them be heard. Those voices were recorded and used as the core essence of the film, and played in in parallel to the visuals on the screen.
You captured an important moment in Hong Kong history in the second portion of your film – the Umbrella Movement. What does it mean to you?
I think people cared about our film because we captured a moment that made everyone come out to dream together. People quit school and work to sleep in tents and gather on the streets en masse. I saw that as a very stark, very visual metaphor of an entire city dreaming together. Democracy is a basic human right. Being heard is a basic human right. In fact, it’s not a right but a need. I’m indebted to everyone who shared their stories with us, whether or not they made it into the film. It was incredible to hear every single one of them.
we captured a moment that made everyone come out to dream together. People quit school and work to sleep in tents and gather on the streets en masse. I saw this as a very visual metaphor of an entire city dreaming together.
What did you ask them that made them open up?
It wasn’t because I asked my subjects to tell me something sad or probing, but several of them started crying. Perhaps no one had ever really listened to them, or perhaps it was the first time they spoke authentically, from the heart. I may possibly have been the first person who asked about who they are as a person. Maybe their parents were never around, or their relationships just aren’t very deep. I really like the pace of this city, but sometimes that pace doesn’t allow us the luxury of actually listening to someone. The how-are-you’s are just hi-byes. Occupy Central happened because people felt like they hadn’t been heard.
You worked closely with Christopher Doyle to create Hong Kong Trilogy. What sets him apart?
I think it’s most definitely his personal integrity and bullshit meter. When I’m not being my authentic self, he’ll tell me, “Jenny, this is BS, this is not you.” You’re always exposed to a plethora of ideas and if you’re not careful about what you let into your life, it can be very dangerous. It’s important to find truth and beauty in the community and people we love, and Christopher inspires me to take these experiences and insights into my art.
You’re always exposed to a plethora of ideas and if you’re not careful about what you let into your life, it can be very dangerous.
What does beautiful mean to you?
To me, putting on make-up and wearing great clothes doesn’t make me more beautiful. What’s beautiful is how I wake up in the morning when I’m happy. Maybe even when my makeup is smeared, or after a cry – because that is real and true.