♦ Director’s Statement
“Since the crushing of the democracy movement in 1989, I have followed the upheaval in China with equal parts amazement and irritation: the country looks like a huge construction site and seems to be involved in a precipitous search for itself. In this unstable present the protagonists are taking tentative but courageous steps into the future.”(Luc Schaedler)
THE TOPIC OF THE FILM During the research and filming in China I kept returning to a topic that had preoccupied me in my earlier films: namely, how people respond to external events, ruptures and life changes, and what this means to them in their daily lives. I took this question to heart in my new film and continued my search for answers. After Made in Hong Kong (1997) and Angry Monk (2005), the current film Watermarks (2013) also marks the end of my Asian Trilogy.
MY RELATIONSHIP TO CHINA My relationship with China began over 20 years ago. Since the crushing of the democracy movement in 1989, I have travelled repeatedly through China. I have followed China’s economic development and the associated political and social upheavals with equal parts amazement and irritation. The social changes triggered by fast-paced economic development unsettled the people. They registered the growing pollution of the environment and water with concern. Entire landscapes as well as a part of their own family history and the cultural history of China were punctiliously ‘flooded’ by progress. My love-hate relationship with China is reflected in the ambivalence of many Chinese, who are simultaneously proud of and disconcerted by developments in their country. These are the contradictory feelings that I have attempted to capture in my film.
THE COLLABORATION WITH MARKUS SCHIESSER In the project Markus Schiesser was responsible for the interviews with the protagonists as well as sound. To complete the research (2009/2010) and filming (2011), we travelled together for months through China and shared in the everyday lives of the protagonists. Markus and I made a good team. His relationship to the people grew out of his quiet ease and the fact that he speaks fluent Chinese. This brought him a great deal of respect. He was simultaneously an insider and an outsider. I was the stranger, as well as being more extroverted and louder. I had to build my relationship with the people through non-verbal means, by gestures and looks. In a cultural and political situation which treats the spoken word with caution and relegates most things to the deeper level of trust, we complemented each other ideally. Markus Schiesser studied Sinology and ethnology in Zurich and China. For over 12 years he has lived and worked in Beijing and Shanghai. He is married to a Chinese woman. We have been friends since the Zurich youth riots of the early 1980s.
OUR WORKING METHOD Water is the visually binding element in the film. Like a river, it flows through the individual scenes, stories and interviews. In China it makes sense to comport oneself like water. Wherever it flows, one lets it go, and wherever it is dammed, one gives way to it and finds another route. In this sense, time and patience are very important factors. What appears to be obvious whenever one works with people in a film turns out to be doubly important in China, for cultural and political reasons. In China, if you want to get close to the people, you have to give yourself a lot of time. It is a complicated but not unpleasant ritual, during which you spend weeks building up trust, step by step: a first conversation, a second one, drinking tea, smoking, chatting, eating together, slowly getting to the point and always coming back to another toast. The first contact, and how you behave at that point, is crucial.
Markus Schiesser, Chongqing
Luc Schaedler, Wusutu