Kenneth Fok Talks Male Communication and the Dangers of South Africa Today

ATM: What does your interaction with Matthew McConaughey’s character exhibit about male on male communication?

KF: Lionel and Dill have known each other for a few years, but there is still a duel every time they communicate. Matthew’s character is always obsessed with something that is inside of his head or an obsession with the thing he is after. In terms of the interaction, it is very off the cuff when they are trying to handle the best price for the fish. It is a very simplistic way of communicating with each other. He is trying to extort money from me. I am trying to get the cheapest price from him. It is much of a case of haggling, this is the way I see it. The relationship does not really go deep. This is my second time working with Matthew. The first time working with Matthew was on The Dark Tower. It was a total interaction with this character. The characters are much more familiar with each other in this film Serenity.

ATM: What if in this scene there was only silence? No sound at all and all we saw was nonverbal communication. Now, how does this change the communication?

KF: Looking back on the day our interaction. Matthew’s character, Baker Dill, seems so distant from the present throughout the movie. My character, Lionel, is curious about his intentions with the gossip from the town’s residents, but there is a red herring in the film about a character trying to track him down.  Lionel is trying to communicate with Dill but there’s constant deflection. There is a very different way of communicating. One is present and interactive. The other is not within this realm at this point.

ATM: What is something that would be deemed an obsession to you but a hobby to an average person?

KF: Films. A lot of people enjoy films, but I watch to the point of obsession and breaking scenes down. I seem to do this subconsciously that it’s become second nature. It has always been an analytical way for me when watching films. While on set I am analyzing and assessing how other actors approach a role and prepare for a role. For me films and tv series are my obsession.

ATM: What is the strategic thought that first enters your mind while in this stage of analyzing films?

KF: Believability. It is different ways of portraying a character. For me it is believability. If you feel what the character feels, then for me this is your first point of contact to pass the test or not. If you do not buy what they are selling, then they have not done their job. This to me is your number one go to. Do you believe them or not? Do you feel their pain? Do you feel whatever they are trying to portray of their character at this point? Everyone has an innate sense of whether someone is telling the truth or not.

ATM: Do you agree that the set design for how the Escape Room was made can metaphorically be someone’s mind when they tap out of reality?

KF: For sure. The sets on Escape Room were phenomenal. When watching these sets in film, you have the added benefit during post production to wrap up the quality. It is quite amazing what they can do. It warps your mind into what is or isn’t reality. These sets take you to a different dimension and really play with your mind – to play on your mind of what is real and what is not real. It is like a third or second Character. It is multiple characters in this case, a character in itself. Different sets have different personalities. The escape goes from one room to the next to see what the clues are to escape it.

ATM: How can a person having ownership get in the way of things?

KF: In Looming Tower, having ownership can cloud your mind. A lot of it was the CIA vs. FBI. I think once the agencies claimed ownership on their intel that’s when it got clouded and ownership became the focus and not the best interest of the country at the end of the day. Prior to 9/11, they were working almost as separate entities. A disaster like 9/11 made them wake up. There is maybe a pride involved and you cannot see this unless something tragic happened.

ATM: How do you handle ownership in your life when you have a huge responsibility?

KF: It is with a humbled heart. Ownership covers a lot of things. If you are talking about ownership of one’s self. If you are talking about ownership in spirituality or the existential meaning of this. It is just taking ownership of who you are within the context of the people around you. In today’s society, in the world of selfies and your status, how many likes you are getting, it makes you lose your ownership of yourself. Maybe it starts being owned by the world. I would like it to be close to home and not be out there as much. Ownership within my immediate circle and just keeping it humble, trying to keep it closer to home and not being out there as much and let the responsibility have a ripple effect from that.

ATM: Where in your life do you feel you are a warrior?

KF: You have to be a warrior while living life every day. Especially living in South Africa. It feels like you have to be a warrior every day. It sounds extreme, but if you are not a warrior these days you will get swallowed up. If you heard it or not – living in South Africa, there is a high crime rate. As soon as you step out of the security of your home, you are in the big bad world of Johannesburg. You must be a warrior in this sense to be aware of your surroundings. I am not kidding or blowing this up! If you are in your car, stopped at a light, then, you are constantly observing to see if it is okay or if there are hijackers out there. Is there smash and grabs out there, which happen quite often. It is just survival of the fittest whether you are in a job situation to fight for the right to be at your job. This turmoil is an everyday life especially in the city.

ATM: What is a misconception of a white South African male today and what is the reality of a white male’s presence in South Africa?

KF: That they are privileged. South Africa has gone through such a transition. To me, being honest, it is kind of a regression than progression. Trump and just his way of dealing with situations, his abrasive nature of dealing with people. It is just regressing. I come back to be a warrior. If you are not a warrior out there, then you are going to get left behind. There are a lot of misconceptions of white males in South Africa. There is a big turnaround in terms of the job situation. You are less likely to get a job as a white male in South Africa. This is the truth and the reality in South Africa as a white male.

ATM: White males are not of the dominant like in America?

KF: Yes, for the most part. If you are a white male looking for a job in South Africa, then you are probably way down on the list. With the whole history of Apartheid, they have been trying to introduce a new way of dealing with the post-Apartheid situation. The privileges that white males had before are no longer. It is trying to get to the state of equality. Black people or Indian people or Asians have been given these opportunities more today.

ATM: South Africa’s way of fixing the racist behavior was to marginalize the white male.

KF: It is about the BEE, the Black Economic Empowerment. You are trying to give preference to the previously disadvantage. Before the white male had an advantage. It has very much been reversed and a part of South Africa. I am waiting to see when the playing field is leveled, and it is the best person for the job and not your skin color. The balance has to be tipped the other way around. We have spent over 20 years now, since the democratic South Africa, now we can level the playing field. Make it the best qualified person for the job.

ATM: They are giving black people and other marginalized races a chance. They have become the dominant. Whereas, before the white male was the dominant.

KF: Yes.

ATM: Has this truly and honestly made a white male understand how black people were once horribly and systematically treated? Because of this societal switch do white males get it now that they are living it and reserve psychology has been done?

KF: I think it does give them some kind of perspective. It is almost a role reversal. I am a Chinese male in South Africa, and we did not have this privilege back in the day. We had to ask for permission to buy houses or to be someone’s neighbor. It may put them in the shoes of what happened before. It is quite a real thing when before you saw a black beggar but now there are white beggars. This is the reality of South Africa. You can put yourself in their shoes as to how it was before but only to some extent.

ATM: Some might not know this in America.

KF: It has been in the news in South Africa. I am not sure what outside of Africa how the rest of world sees what is going on here. What do you guys think? To see what is happening in your own country, I wonder what people from outside of my country see what you see. Do they still have the stereotype of looking at South Africa? Whatever this stereotype might be.

ATM: From my perspective, I mostly see information and news about politics and about the government overall. Some know there are some white people in South Africa. There is not a little of talk or the media does not really show your side of what has just been said. Some people think of various ages that Africa has a high rate of starving children. It is not judging the person for thinking this way, but it is to question what the media is putting out to make people think like this.

KF: People are surprised when they come to South Africa. What they thought of South Africa compared to what they experience is a total mind shift for them. They are pleasantly surprised. We do not have tigers and elephants in our backyards.

ATM: Also, some people still think Africa is all poverty.

KF: As much as the rich get richer, there is a big part of society where there is a shortage of jobs.  A lot of people on the ground are not happy with what they were promised from this government. They feel progression is very slow. There is a lot of frustration in this. It is a difficult one to balance out.

ATM: What information from the media do you receive about America when in South Africa? What do they tell you about America?

KF: There is so much fake news these days. I try to keep up more with world news and not local news. From the reliable news outlets, from what I have seen that it is interesting is the impact America has on the rest of the world economically. It is quite a scary situation. You just have to wait and see what Trump’s move is. What he says. What he tweets. This almost has a knock-on effect on the world’s economy, which is quite scary. I am quite sure that perhaps he realizes the power he has in his hands. A lot of people are afraid of this. I see a very segregated America. What you are seeing on T.V today almost reflects what you saw on T.V during the 60s and 70s. If you had a split scene to put these two images together, then has America really progressed? I do not know. This is my perspective on America at this point. The world is in a scary place.

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