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10/24[Q&A]WORLD FOCUS “Zinnia Flower” by Tom Shu-yu Lin

“Zinnia Flower” Q&A session took place on Oct 24, 2015

Tom Shu-yu Lin / Stone(Shih Chin-hang)
©2015 TIFF

Tom Shu-yu Lin (Director, Screenplay), Stone / Shih Chin-hang (Actor)
Q: It has been few years since you’ve directed Starry Starry Night. Your new film, Zinnia Flower is heartrending indeed. What was your motive for making this film?
Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin: I shot Starry Starry Night in 2011 and lost my wife in 2012. I have experienced worst time in my life. I started to get over the hardship, I had the idea of making this film, which was also a way for me to release my emotion through the character that I created.
Q: Stone, how did you feel when you were asked to participate in this film?
Stone / Shih Chin-hang: When the director first approached me I was quite nervous as the script was deep and filled with sorrow. I was not sure whether I was competent for the role. But I liked the film, Starry Starry Night by the director very much and he was also one of the directors of Mayday MTV. I liked his way of storytelling so when he made the request I agreed to take the role immediately. It was my honor to have participated in his film and the mutual trust between us was very important in the whole filmmaking process.
Q: Why did you choose Stone and Karena Lam as the cast of the film and how do you feel now that you have completed the film?
Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin: The way I did the casting of the film was mostly based on my intuition of whether actors could portray the character or possessed the diversity for different role and different story. When I make a choice I can usually imagine the characters that they are capable of playing. I truly believed that these two cast would deliver exactly what I wanted, regardless of their previous acting experience
Q: The film is a depiction of parallel stories of two leading characters. How did you arrange the sequence of the shooting?
Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin: Special arrangement on the filming process was needed as the family of Karena Lam was based in Hong Kong. She could only go to Taiwan for a short period of time and finished her part. So the filming process was that we shot Stone’s part, then Stone and Karenas’ part, then Karena’s part, again Stone and Karenas’ part and finally Stone’s part. We tried out the best way to shoot according to the sequence of the script.
Stone / Shih Chin-hang: Although the film was shot according to the script, the first scene which I was in was actually shot in the later stage. So the audience could feel the strong sadness from the character.
Q: I found the character of mother-in-law to be rather cold hearted when dealing with the unmarried bride’s sorrow of death for the loved ones. Is the attitude common?
Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin: I was not trying to make a film representing the custom of a particular race. I created two characters just because I thought that there was no definite or so-called correct way to deal with sorrow and death, everyone has their own way to face their hardship and healing the sorrow. The attitude of the father-in-law and mother-in-law depicted in the film actually represented the real emotion when they lost their child, especially the anger, which was usually hard to be suppressed. It was the negative side of emotion yet it was real and understandable.
Having lost their most beloved one was set as the first time experience for the two main characters and we could also observe their changes while the story unfolded, the expression of anger to gradually getting over the hard time. I think the “100 days ritual” reveals the traditional way of how the Taiwanese from the last generation deals with their loss of family members. But it is now getting unpopular among the young generation and urban people.
Q: The music of Chopin in the film was very tender and it made me cry. Why did you choose the music?
Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin: As the wife of Yuwei was a pianist, so I decided to choose a piece of music for the character. The selection criteria was that the music would be treated as a way to communicate with her husband after she passed away. That piece of music must be filled with love and sorrow, yet it could associate with her husband. So we picked Chopin’s work. Certainly, I have also played the music to Stone as he was the one who acted the role of husband and his expertise in music gave me plenty of advice during the process.
Stone / Shih Chin-hang: Since the participation to this film, I got a different kind of feeling when I listen to Chopin. I use to listen to the music trying to feel Chopin’s message and story in his music, note by note. Because the Chopin’s music was selected as the main theme, I listened to it repeatedly when I drove to the film set so as to get familiar with the role. So, whenever I listen to Chopin now I feel kind of sad and would think of all these tragedies experienced through the role.
Q: I understand that this film was created based on your experience. Why did you decide to depict two main characters in the film instead of one person?
Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin: I created two characters because I was looking for more possibilities to face the same tragedy, or in other words, a better way to deal with the problem. When I explained to the actors, I used the following example. Say there were two mice in a maze, the first mouse never recognized the pattern and just kept taking random directions that it encountered. The second mouse was thoughtful and frightened, it leaned against the wall and only followed the direction where the walls led it. I was not sure which mice would reach the goal first.
Q: Why was Stone’s character wearing the cast throughout the film?
Stone / Shih Chin-hang: It was hard to tell all the stories which happened in 100 days in 90 minutes. You could see that Yuwei was wearing the cast from the beginning till the end of the film. But there was also a scene where Yuwei was experiencing an emotional breakdown and he tried to break his cast to break his arm again so as to leave the scar of sorrow in his heart forever. The cast was therefore a symbol that reminded me that I was a person who lost my wife.
Q: This is a story about two people with two sorrows. But the way that they overcame the sorrows were similar. Was that the common way for the Chinese people?
Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin: The two characters actually possessed a positive side although they were both in deep sorrow and their behavior were similar. But their feeling, experience and demand were totally different.
Message from Stone / Shih Chin-hang to the audience.
The film has been released in Taiwan and there were great interests in this film. Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin and I wrote our experiences in the Facebook and many people sent message with their experiences as well. I believe that the film depicts the universal theme. We would appreciate if you can give us your experiences and feedback of the film through our Facebook.
Message from Dir. Tom Shu-yu Lin to the audience.
I received a letter last month from an audience saying that she was experiencing her “100 days” since she lost her husband a few months ago. The crew would like to thank for her bravery to watch the film and was pleased that the film could relieve her grief during her lonely time.

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KEIRIN.JPThe 28th Tokyo International Film Festival will be held with funds provided by Japan Keirin Association.TIFF History
27th Tokyo International Film Festival(2014)