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
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
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
"I like the ones with
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