CinemAsia Film Festival interview ENG: Aaron Wan.

Aaron Wan

CinemAsia Film Festival is from the 6th till the 11th of March 2018. #SaveTheDate

Interview by: Feargal Agard | Film lab participant: Aaron Chun Fai Wan

Film: Inburgering (Civic Integration, 2017) | Genre: Comedy | Languages: Dutch, Mandarin (Chinese).


Ik ben Aaron Chun Fai Wan.

“My full name is Aaron Chun Fai Wan. I was born in Hong Kong and I moved to the Netherlands when I was seven years old with my brother and mother. I attented highschool in the Netherlands and after that I studied psychology at the University of Amsterdam.”

“Eventually, acting has become my job and main income after I first wanted to become a singer for which I still get gigs within the Chinese community of Amsterdam. Especially with Chinese New Year’s. I love noticing that after so many years of hard work people know where to find me.”

“Next to that, I write film scripts, but that is something that I have done at times next to my acting career. I took a class for that years back through the Dutch Media fund. They were trying to stimulate writers from various backgrounds. This way they can create a better reflection of our society. That’s why you see a lot more children’s films with Asian, Surinamese and many other kids in the lead roles.”

“Back then I was developing a children’s film called Dag Opa (Bye Grandpa). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get it produced. What I wouldn’t want is to make writing a full-time career, because I just don’t have the patience for it. It takes a few years before a script is finally filmed. The most recent script that I wrote was for CinemAsia film lab and I am happy that we produced and filmed it in a few months time.”

Inburgering (Civic Integration, 2017).

“The short film that I made during the CinemAsia film lab is named Civic Integration (2017). As an actor I performed in the videos shown during the integration exams taken by asylum seekers. I played a person who had to visit the IRS, but also a person who had questions at a bank about loans. The asylum seekers who are taking these tests could answer the questions by choosing out of the A, B, C, D options when the sketch had ended. I thought it was strange that they were given such difficult questions.”

“My girlfriend Caroline Vermeulen is Dutch and an actrice. She made a huge contribution to the story. At first she helped gain inspiration through improvisation and real-life personal situations to develop a one page synopsis and from there on I created a short film script.”

“When I began to brainstorm I had to think of this years film lab theme ‘lost in translation’, but then in a comical way. In this story the roles are swapped and now a Western person has to walk in the shoes of a non-Western person and and take the civic integration test. That is why the story is about a Dutch woman who is in a relationship with her boyfriend who is of Chinese descent. She is about to meet her mother-in-law whom they are going to pick up at the airport. She is practicing Chinese Mandarin sentences. Something along the lines of “dear mother”, but she is scared because she has to pronounce it in the correct tone. Otherwise she would be saying “Hello and welcome old horse”. This stresses the main character out, because she feels that she needs to prove herself. At some point she ends up in a trance-like dream situation where a Chinese examiner, played by me, makes her life a living hell. The examiner looks pretty much like a communist psychopath and all he does is test her on language, martial arts and crazy food dishes. I took all the cliches that people have about Chinese people out of the closet to magnify the story through absurdistic humor.”

“I was a little scared that it might be seen as a superficial comedy film, but during the first private screening I heard that despite the comical aspect the underlying thought came accross.”

“..Let us embrace strangers..”

“The point that I am trying to make is that when people love each other on a micro level like in a relationship, but also on a societal level that you shouldn’t impose these things on each other. Let us embrace strangers and asylum seekers and not constantly push them in a achievement and earnings model that conveys that they will only be accepted when they’ve become exactly like how we want them to be. The basis should be love and with that people can still be guided to learn a language and familiarize with a new culture.”

CinemAsia as initiative.

“I think CinemAsia film lab is a great initiative because we can cultivate our skills. In the Dutch mainstream film world, you gradually see stories, actors, filmmakers coming from different backgrounds, but it is still very little. The Asian community is least represented, which is why it is great that CinemAsia has created a platform for the local Asian community.”

“It is the first time that I participate as a filmmaker because, in previous years, I was sometimes asked to play a role in short films. Every year I get to meet new people who love films and who love creating films. It would be great if CinemAsia would host film labs and collaboration initiatives throughout the whole year. That way we could push ourselves as teams or network to make bigger things: a KORT! film or a 50-minute television film or maybe even a feature film. Or simply screening time on TV.”

My Dream!

“As an actor, my biggest wish is not to be ethnically casted. I have noticed that things are getting better and better. I have played three times as a guest actor at Goede Tijden Slechte Tijden, where I once played a school inspector whose last name was ‘de Vries’. I first thought they had forgotten to change it, but the director indicated that it was quite possible that my character could have been adopted. this way there are more roles where one could have chosen a white actor, but in Instead, they chose me. This makes me happy because otherwise, I would only be casted as an Asian person who bakes spring rolls or stereotypically sings karaoke. Or I’d play in one of those Remia advertisements where an Asian person with a strong accent speaks Dutch. I refused to play such a role. I’m not going to ridicule Chinese people in this way. Just give me a nice role where I can just speak Dutch in a normal way.”

“As a writer, I dream of writing some nice stories where a mix of Asians, Dutch and other people of color can join in. To form teams and create films together.”

International & Hollywood.

“I would also like to do more with acting, but than internationally. I play in a Belgian TV series called ‘Undercover’, and I also signed up for a new American TV series directed by Wong Kar-Wai. It is about the Chinese mafia and the Tong Wars which took place in San Francisco in the 20’s. I sent my resume and was asked to send a video audition. I just have to wait until they tell me if I can proceed to the next round.”

“I am grateful and I am positive about how things are right now. Changes and new opportunities are slowly getting underway, but that is why I am patient.”

Photo and interview by Feargal Agard.

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