A Gentle Night
Review and interview by Jennifer parker
It’s the end of 2017 (thank goodness) but what has been a crap year for the world politically has been a bonanza artistically and no more has this been apparent than in the world of short films. As Oscar season is quickly approaching there are short films that just shouldn’t be missed. A Gentle Night by director Qui Yang is one of them.
A Gentle Night is a short film about the aftermath of the disappearance of the 13-year-old daughter of a middle-class Chinese family. In less than 20 minutes, the director, Qui Yang, invites us into a nightmare that transcends cultures—the first 24 hours of a missing person.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Qui about his award-winning film.
Some highlights from the interview with director Qui Yang.
About your upbringing in China—
My parents were quite strict and traditional. But then again, my father’s side of the family is also more intellectual. My grandfather was a painter and my father is an architect. I think the creative gene combined with this strict upbringing, made me a very rebellious kid growing up too.
About parental support about you going to film school in Australia—
They obviously didn’t have faith in it. But I was not an academic at high school, so going overseas to study was the only way for me to get some higher education.
In the film, LinLin’s parents have issues with discipline and what is expected of them from society versus what they expect of each other. How much of this is influenced by your own experience versus your observations of Chinese culture?
A lot I believe… I grew up in a very strict and traditional household. Also, I was not a particularly good kid, I was extremely rebellious, so I had my fair share of beating and discipline from my parents. So in doing this film, I pulled a lot of things from my own experiences.
About the strictness of the parenting and the perception of the alienation of the child within Chinese culture—
All the parents would have to face this dilemma. How strict should I discipline my children? Especially for parents from a very traditional country like China. What is the balance? How much should I listen to the tradition? As the Chinese tradition, children should always listen to the parents and their teachers. But really? It’s a good idea that children to listen to parents for things. But if it became an ideology, a truth. Then sometimes parents could take things too far.
About the impetus for the film—
It was a very short local news story which reported a bunch of children who had gone missing in a local suburb. Then a few months later, another very short follow-up report says the children suddenly all came back. Because so much of the story were unreported, this stayed in my mind. I kept thinking what happened, why the children went missing, what did the parents do after and why they suddenly came back. And this report stayed with me for a very long time, till I was about to make a new short, and I felt maybe I could take some inspiration from it.
About the scope of the daughter’s role in the feature?
I don’t know haha, even if I do the feature, I wouldn’t know at the moment.
About the root of the conflict between the parents about discipline styles in the household—
I think firstly nobody likes to just beat up kids. But again, discipline Chinese is an eternal hard thing. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Every moment, you could create something terrible for the kid by having good intention. And also from my own experience, the mother is always the gentler one for me haha.
About teacher Feng’s reputation—
Same reason why everyone is worried about their public reputation. In Chinese tradition, the teacher always represents something higher, it’s the combination of absolute authority and knowledge. It’s a sacred figure. So, for a teacher to be involved in a small girl missing case, gossip along could kill his job, career and even social reputation.
About what’s next—
I’m writing my first feature script at the moment.
About shooting the film digitally—
As my cinematographer and I didn’t want to use a lot traditional film lights and the film was entirely shot during nighttime. There are certain locations were so dark, to shoot on film stock is practically not possible.