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ZHANG, ZEMING: Foreign Moon

Freedom is great, but scary, says Zhang Zeming, in an interview with ANDREW L. URBAN during a Sydney visit, about his haunting new film, Foreign Moon.

It’s mid morning in Sydney, a cool early spring day, and Zhang Zeming is hanging about in the bar and brasserie of the Martin Place Dendy Cinema in Sydney, ‘doing media’ for his latest film, Foreign Moon, the first Fifth Generation Chinese film made outside China. We sit at a table with glasses of water, and his heavy accent requires close attention.

I begin by remarking that we see a rarely filmed sunny side of London in Foreign Moon, and he tells me it was just luck. Knowing London, I believe that. Nobody could plan to shoot a sunny London.

Zeming’s film career started when he was mistaken for someone else’s son

Foreign Moon is an effective story of displacement from the perspective of a young Chinese woman who goes to London expecting the most. Where Clara Law’s Chinese migrant story was set in Sydney and dealt with the internal tensions of the migrant family in a strange culture, Foreign Moon is a quiet and touching film with a special kind of love story woven into its cultural exploration. Quite engrossing.

"Moving from China to a western society, you lose that sense of someone always telling you what to do."

Zeming’s film career started when he was mistaken for someone else’s son and he was taken to the film studio in Beijing, to start work as a runner. His view of life is tinted by stints in the Red Guard, his life dislocated and his view of the West coloured by the unique perspective of cultural travel. "Moving from China to a western society, you lose that sense of someone always telling you what to do. In the West, every decision is made by yourself. The character of Lan Lan in Foreign Moon, still needs someone to look after her." That looking after, instead of the State, is done by a father figure, who first becomes a brother, then, finally, a lover.

...filming in London is a nightmare

This sense of exalted isolation underlies Zeming’s film. But the film sublimates the socio-political for the personal, succeeding in making the film emotional, not polemic. He also has an eye for humour. And while it is not so much a sexual statement, the result is nevertheless erotic.

Zeming makes it clear that filming in London is a nightmare. "Very hard to make low budget film in London, with 34 day shoot."

"I like the ones with heart."

A far cry, too, from his days in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution, when he saw a restricted menu of films. Since leaving China, Zeming has seen lots of films: "I like the ones with heart. Many are technically good, but empty. Narrative and character no good. I like Taxi Driver, Shine, My Life as a Dog."

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Director, Zhang Zeming
(Photo by Andrew L. Urban)


"Moving from China to a western society, you lose that sense of someone always telling you what to do. In the West, every decision is made by yourself. The character of Lan Lan in Foreign Moon, still needs someone to look after her."

"Very hard to make low budget film in London, with 34 day shoot."

"I like the ones with heart. Many are technically good, but empty. Narrative and character no good. I like Taxi Driver, Shine, My Life as a Dog."

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