Review Fix chats with “Drifting” director Hanxiong Bo, who discusses the film and what was the creative force behind it.
Hanxiong Bo is an LA-based filmmaker who was born and raised in Beijing. Hanxiong’s latest film Drifting premiered at the 2019 San Sebastian International Film Festival where it was nominated for the Best Short Film Award. Bo’s previous film Haircut was selected by multiple Academy Qualifying Film Festivals such as LA Shorts International Film Festival. Currently being the recipient of the Jack Nicholson Distinguished Student Director Award and the HFPA Directing Fellowship, his working credits include Distant Vision directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Assistant to the award-winning filmmaker Jennifer Reeder. Bo is currently developing his first feature film in L.A.
Review Fix: Why is the topic of this film important today?
Hanxiong Bo: The background of one-child policy has stopped recently in China. Those times are gone. As a single child in the family I grew up in, I wanted to share some experiences of the time, not necessary all from myself, but a collective experience.
Review Fix: What inspired this film?
Bo: The fight scene on the bridge. That’s the original inspiration. A year before I wrote this story, I got into a fight on the basketball court and a bunch of bullies circled me trying to beat me up. My parents on the other side of the court saw it and broke into the circle and fought for me. So us three started to fight as a family against those bullies. I felt more anger to protect my family when my mom got thrown onto the ground. And that’s the moment I wanted to capture in the film. I want to make a film essentially about love and family. In China, we don’t usually talk about love in language. But when there is a situation like that, your family always jump in and sacrifice themselves for you out of instinct.
Review Fix: Why was ‘Drifting’ a perfect title for this short?
Bo: First, there is really car drifting in the film, but it’s also like a metaphor. The protagonist’s inner world is drifting for his identity, and the family is drifting to another place. It’s just a status of people in that world.
Review Fix: How difficult was this film to put together?
Bo: All the challenges were in preproduction and producing.My producing team helped me a lot. One of the producers Yirui Guan himself is a car drifter and specialized in car stunts and cinematography so he helped me a lot on the logistic side of shooting. From my side, finding the main actor is the biggest challenge. I need to find someone that is convincing and fit for the role, and I couldn’t find any professional actor during the audition that convinced me to portray the role. So I decided to go to the street-casting. I started to look at people on the street, bus and subway, and finally I found my actor on a subway. After finding my main actor, it’s a big release for me.
Review Fix: Tell me about the cast.
Bo: So I already talked about how I find my main protagonist. So the other cast are a mixture of professional actors and non-actors. The actor Sanming Han is a professional actor who played a lot of roles in a lot of Jia Zhangke’s early films. His performances are always natural to me. And Jiali Wang who played Mom in the film is also a professional actor in a lot of TV shows and commercials in China.
Review Fix: What was the feeling like on set?
Bo: Well, after the preproduction, I enjoyed every minute on set. I had a great experience working with my DP Joewi Verhoeven because we prepared a lot before, so on set, he knew what I want, so that I got to spend more time with my actors, and embraced the improvisation on set. The dance scene was an improvisation, the bird, the sheep were all kind of good accidents, and because we were well prepared, we were able to capture those moments.
Review Fix: What films have inspired it the most?
Bo: I remember Dolan’s ‘Mommy’, Tarkovsky’s films inspired me a lot when I was preparing the film.
Review Fix: What have you learned about yourself through this entire process?
Bo: A process of learning how to communicate and trust the people you work with.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Bo: I’m based in L.A now writing a feature film set in the U.S. I also want to shoot more short films.