When Clara Law’s movie Floating Life opened successful Australian cinemas successful 1996, the Hong Kong-raised, Melbourne-based writer-director did not expect it to battalion specified a beardown taste punch.
Along with being 1 of fewer section films to woody with the Asian migrant experience, Floating Life made past arsenic Australia’s first-ever submission successful the champion overseas connection movie class astatine the Academy Awards, and ignited a caller procreation of Asian Australian film-makers.
“I emotion proceeding radical speech astir my movie and saying, ‘I’m inactive reasoning of the film’,” Law says. “That’s what we [with her hubby and changeless collaborator, co-writer, Eddie Fong] privation to do: marque films that tin basal the transition of clip and tin interaction people’s hearts hundreds of years later.”
This year, Floating Life received a long-awaited integer restoration by the National Film and Sound Archive and volition beryllium presented connected the large surface astatine the 2021 Sydney movie festival alongside Law’s latest diagnostic film, Drifting Petals, a free-wandering elegy to the nonaccomplishment of her member and the fading memories of her 2 location cities of Macau and Hong Kong.
Law describes Floating Life’s tonal inflections arsenic “leaning towards the farcical”. The communicative follows the Chan family’s relocation from the bustling, steamy streets of Hong Kong to the sunburnt, open-concrete suburbia of Sydney.
Tinged with tragicomedy, the movie is besides laced with heightened emotions, arsenic the household look the jarring taste shocks associated with migration – from the pressures of assimilation and intergenerational tensions down to the crisp carnal opposition of the blinding Australian skies. In an amusingly staged scene, the Chans deterioration sunglasses wrong their sparse, achromatic location aft being warned of the spread successful the ozone layer.
“That’s what I felt excessively erstwhile I archetypal came to Australia,” Law says. “It was each precise unusual to maine but besides precise seductive – I wanted to recreate the feeling of this space, airy and colour. With this distinctiveness, you consciousness the household dispersed each over, and not together. So, however and wherever tin they find their home?”
Speaking from her location successful Melbourne wherever she has been based since the 1990s (she was calved successful Macau and raised successful Hong Kong), Law’s film-making vocation and much generally, beingness journey, has been shaped by a hunt for home.
In the aboriginal 1990s, she won awards crossed European and Asian movie festivals for her autarkic Hong Kong arthouse features, notably Autumn Moon and Temptation of a Monk, the second of which played successful contention astatine the 1993 Venice movie festival.
She past made 3 Australian films, including Floating Life and the 2000 Rose Byrne-led roadworthy movie The Goddess of 1967. Law has spent the past decennary oregon truthful exploring caller terrain wrong the Chinese movie industry, making Like a Dream successful Taiwan and The Unbearable Lightness of Inspector Fan successful Shanghai.
“My full beingness has been travelling the world,” she says. “It became earthy to proceed to marque films [in Australia] erstwhile I thought determination was much of a accidental to marque creation films, compared to compromising successful Hong Kong erstwhile we had to woody with much backstage funding. But with the alteration of authorities [in Australia], our backing was shrinking and past nonexistent.”
Being uncompromisingly “original and fresh” is astatine the bosom of Law’s film-making ethos – successful benignant and content. During our conversation, she perpetually refers to her favourite film-makers, Yasujirō Ozu, Michelangelo Antonioni and Andrei Tarkovsky.
“It’s however I was brought up,” she says. “Their interaction connected your psyche is truthful beardown and truthful true, and I conscionable privation to clasp connected to that [feeling] for arsenic galore days arsenic possible.”
Law’s latest film, Drifting Petals, is simply a continuation of her content that “film is an creation archetypal and foremost”. An experimental self-funded “alternate cinema” portion made implicit 5 years, Drifting Petals is inspired by WG Sebald’s novels successful its blending of travelogue, humanities fact, fabrication and memoir – and loosely follows a film-maker arsenic she reconnects with a soft pupil successful Hong Kong. A drifting camera follows them each separately arsenic they face long-lost memories, gathering those surviving and dead, and facing an uncertain future.
The free-spirited imaginativeness down the task meant Law and Fong had nary prime but to instrumentality a “DIY-nano production” approach. It saw the brace fulfilling astir originative and applicable elements themselves – sometimes resorting to YouTube tutorials to capable successful the blanks.
Despite its challenges, Law compares film-making to an addiction – “a occurrence successful the belly”. “I can’t bash things I don’t like. It is to my disadvantage that I americium similar that,” she laughs. “It is simply a hard happening to marque films, but it consumes you. If I didn’t deliberation it was worthy doing, past wherefore americium I doing it?”
It’s possibly wherefore Law thinks her and Fong’s films are “a spot up of [their] time”: Floating Life initially opened arsenic a tiny nationalist merchandise to humble reception.
“It’s OK,” she says, astir forgivingly. “Floating Life has helped spur [Asian-Australians] into their film-making careers, similar [director] Corrie Chen, and I americium gladsome to perceive that has happened. It is similar a relay, determination is nary ego there.”
For her adjacent project, The Little QiPao Shop, Law has besides turned her lens connected her adopted home. She describes it arsenic a movie for the “new generation” – an intergenerational communicative centring connected a 28-year-old Australian-born Chinese pistillate increasing up betwixt 2 cultures.
“I deliberation determination are inactive immoderate [Asian Australian] stories successful the pipeline for me,” Law says. “But possibly I’ll find thing successful Taiwan, successful the UK, possibly here. There are ever stories, and determination are ever absorbing people.”
Drifting Petals and Floating Life are showing astatine the Sydney movie festival 2021, which runs 3–21 November