ATM: Express your feeling of culture you receive while traveling to another country and into another culture?
AH: Hong Kong is so familiar as a major international metropolis. I have lived in New York. I am from Miami. The little things that you take for granted tripped me up. For example, I had been in Hong Kong for maybe a week. I was heading to dinner. I saw a bus that I needed and jumped on it. I got thrown off by the driver because I had jumped the line and broken the etiquette. In New York, it is elbows up everyone gets out of my way. Whereas, in Hong Kong is like “We are civilized. You need to stand in the back of the line and apologize to everyone you just embarrassed. These are the kinds of things I was not anticipating, which tripped me up. Like getting lost in a shopping mall is a good example. Everything is in English and very well layered out. There are signs. How am I getting lost in such a simple place? This was a basic assumption of understanding where I was or relying on my phone for GPS. Their types of things alienated me even more. It made me question my fundamental understanding of my cognitiveness as a person.
ATM: Carlos, as an editor on this film, what is your perspective on Andrew’s culture shock?
Carlos: I wanted Andrew to lean into the fumbling comedic aspects of being a foreigner in a place and not understanding and but trying earnestly and hard to connect with a place through this. Also, to poke fun him a little more than he did. I liked for these moments to be in the footage as we were putting these together and trying to make it an adventure for the audience to go about Andrew’s mishaps.
ATM: Do you believe the comedic scenes in this film would also be viewed as a comedy?
Andrew: One of our producers are from Hong Kong. We have worked with her. We have shown the movie through him and other people. A lot of the things coming out is the art world. This is not culturally specific. It is not Hong Kong vs. Miami, but it is the people who enjoy and appreciate the contemporary world and travel to art fairs. This is a broadly global type of person. We find these things very funny. When Macky and Tom have their Instagram karaoke, this plays incredibly well. They are taking photos relentlessly of art plays just as well in Miami as it does in Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, or Shanghai. These elements transcend geography, but also a cultural joke. Yes, me getting lost in a world is funny and humiliating. People seem to enjoy laughing at me. The mall is famously known as an easy mall. Everyone has a mall they got lost in, but I picked the elementary level one.
ATM: Carlos, does it seem like there is a difference in what is considered funny based on the culture you are from?
Carlos: Certainly, to a degree. I approach the material regardless of your background. We give you enough to make the character of you in the film relatable enough. So regardless of your language and your background, you can find the moments funny and identify their character and their circumstances.
ATM: What did you observe about the artistic admiration in the Hong Kong art world?
Andrew: I drew a lot of inspiration from their art world. The film is an attempt to express this admiration without overexplaining it. The thing about art is, how do you talk about it without killing the magic that makes it interesting? This is what we wanted to reflect in the film. A good example of how I felt about the art world in Hong Kong is Samson Youngs’ “So You Are Old by the Time You Reach the Island.” This is the moment the art collectors walk in and walk through Hong Kong. This is where the movie is a montage dreamlike. The goal was to reflect and interpret this experience. It became our interpretation of the art. Our goal was to show the reflection of what art had on me.
ATM: What feeling, or view can you receive from art that is nondialogue?
Andrew: A good example is was being in the art show called Afterwork. This is about domestic workers in Hong Kong. This was a lightning rod moment for me. I did not work in this environment. Hong Kong has a scenario where domestic workers from the Philippines and neighboring countries come to Hong Kong; these women get visas to work while living in the house they are employed by. They are a part of the children and their home life. Because they are living in their employees’ home, they have no privacy. On Sundays, which is their day off they hang out in public spaces. It becomes a citywide panic in an available space. People step up these temporary panic areas with blankets and cardboard.
They are eating food, home cooked food, and sharing the cookies they made. They are watching videos on their phones and Skyping their families. It was such a surprise to see this because it does not happen in the cities, I live in. I go to this art show and realize this is a Hong Kong experience. All the artists are doing work and interacting about the women they grew up with. They are making work about the people in their lives that become invisible because of the role they serve. The artist wants to make their visible and tell these stories. Also, foreground them, so they are not just taking them for granted. As an outsider, I was like, “Why isn’t anyone talking about this? What is going on?” I met a work of art that was attempting to communicate the same feeling I was having. I realized Hong Kong was having these conversations and that I was late to the party, but I get it.
Carlos: We tried to convey how the experience of this art work informed the decisions made by the character. We can use the art work to help propel the narrative forward. So, in one scene, Andrew is grappling with personal demons and lost space. He goes to an exhibit that is about sex and love. It was this sort of thing. How can we have the narrative bounce off this artwork? Then go into a flashback or scene were the narrative from the art work carries over into the scene. It was a great way to use the language of film in communication on what the art was doing.
ATM: Reflect what you saw about the human connection related to friendship in our society compared to Hong Kong’s society?
Andrew: Hong Kong as a city is an interesting place. I felt a certain way of coming from this country. I was coming from a world having friends and network. I moved to the far side of the world knowing no one. I had to start over again. I had to start over again and to have to build the connection. Because of the documentary, I had chances to force friendships. I would interview people saying, “Can we talk for an hour and a half? Can we interview people?” This would lead to, “Hey can I come to an art world and come with you?” I was able to fast track a certain amount of connection because of the project.
Additionally, I was living here for ten months. I was not constantly working on the project. Hong Kong is a city that is so international, and trade based. It is temporary for a lot of people. International people were coming to Hong Kong for work for a limited time span.
Everyone is a little bit on summer camp. “Hey, I want to explore as much as I can? I want to explore.” If you walk into a bar and someone notices they have not seen you for a while, the response is “Oh, I am here for a year or six more months.” A sense of curiosity would unite people in different ways. If I had not been privileged with the documentary, then I might have been stuck in this bubble with people who speak the same language as me, knew what I knew, and familiar with the reference of culture. The documentary allowed me to break out of this and go to local places. To be immersed in languages I did not speak. To recognize and build friendships based on things outside of my comfort zone.