Interview with Yuzhi Zhu - Childhood in the House, Reflection of Chinese society
By: Hooman Razavi
The chance to interview Yuzhi Zhu, a budding director from China, provided the venue for getting to know his cinematic vision, theme selection, and focus on the concept of "Home" and modern Chinese society. Mr. Zhu described how his most recent short children film "Children in the House" was created, which got the nomination in Indie short Film Festival in Los Angles recently. He also elaborated on his future project and how he got inspired to use the medium of the cinema to communicate with Chinese and global audiences. Universal Cinema is proud to reflect on the international cinema scene, especially the award-winning and influential short films.
Hooman Razavi, Phoenix Journal (PJ): How did the idea of short film came about? Is it based on a personal story or one very common in China?
Yuzhi Zhu (YZ): The main plot of the story comes from my life. In most urban families in China, there is only one child, and often parents have to work. When holidays come, parents cannot take care of their children for a whole day. Families with good conditions will let grandparents take care of their children, or send them to various holiday care classes. However, many parents do not have this condition and can only let their children at home, as shown in the movie!
(PJ): Why you decide to make a short film, almost 6 minutes long? Is the simplicity of storytelling or difficulty of making a feature film on this topic?
(YZ): Short films have been my main form of artistic creation in recent years. The main reason is that my life is drifting and uncertain. Short film creation allows me to concentrate on my energy and resources to complete it in a relatively short period of time. In addition, China is in a hurry. In society, people are increasingly reluctant to spend time on an artistic feature film, unless it is a Hollywood-style entertainment film, and people are also reluctant to spend too much energy thinking about too complex social issues, and most people choose entertainment to relax their increasingly heavy social pressure; however, they do not reject the short film format, because it will not take them too much time, so I sometimes choose the short film format to tell a social issue, which can more directly evoke the society Vibes.
(PJ): Can you tell us more about your previous work on this theme? Do you also have experience with short filmmaking?
(YZ): Since 2010, I have created three documentary films and a dozen short films, of which three are related to "home". "CHILDHOOD IN THE HOUSE" is one of them, and the other two are "HOMELESS"And"ISOLATION", these short films without exception express my thoughts on the concept of "home" in traditional Chinese culture. The concept of "home" has been the most important symbol of Chinese society for two thousand years. Sometimes it is related to the country. It is often difficult to distinguish the two concepts. Chinese traditional education starts from "home". Children have inherited the traditional culture here for more than two thousand years. However, part of this is incompatible with the cultural value of modern civilized society; In these years, I have been paying attention to and thinking about this topic, and I will continue to show my thinking in the form of films. (PJ): How did you choose the setting and decide to use this cinematography?
(YZ): Like other families in China, Zhu Siqi is the only child in the family. Most of the plots in the film are his personal experiences. At the same time, he has also witnessed many similar experiences of his classmates. Therefore, he is very natural when performing roles. Additionally, he can grasp the psychology of the role well; when I told him the appeal of the film creation, he understood very well, and was happy to help me convey this desire to the society and hope that people can pay more attention to children after watching the film; we are very happy to cooperate!
(PJ): What has been the reception among critics in China? How about the audience, general and film festival buffs?
(YZ): After the production of "CHILDHOOD IN THE HOUSE" was completed, it was only screened on a small scale. The audience included Zhu Siqi’s classmates’ parents and his teachers. After watching the film, they all expressed their sympathy for their children, not for those who could not accompany their children more. They feel very sorry to grow, but can't do anything to change the status quo! The film has not participated in a film festival in China yet!
(PJ): Do you have any sequel to "Childhood in the house" on the same theme? Any future projects that you would like to share and discuss?
(YZ): I’m creating a feature film called "Y", inspired by my eight-month visit to the University of Missouri’s Asian Affairs Center in the United States. The story takes place between two families, a native American family and one from Chinese families, different cultures, different beliefs, and different lifestyles have brought confusion to these two families. Coupled with the impact of the special epidemic, conflicts are inevitable. Among them, there will be life thinking brought by Amish.