CinemAsia Film Festival Interview ENG: Alex Lai.

Alex Lai

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

Interview by: Feargal Agard | FilmLAB participant: Alex Lai.

Film: Inburgering (2018) | Genre: Comedy | Languages: Dutch, Mandarin Chinese.

I am Alex Lai.

“I am Alex Lai and I am originally Chinese. I studied China studies at the University of Leiden and I was able to study in Beijing, China and Taiwan as well. After that, I worked as a trade promoter. I was the one who managed the contacts and communication between Dutch and Asian companies to make connections with the Dutch business world, but later I went a different direction.”

“I am a KungFu teacher that is why I was asked to be involved with a project of the Tropenmuseum that was about China. One of the exhibition parts was martial arts. They had put together a program for a few years for a younger audience, children, toddlers, and teens. The transfer of knowledge about China and Asian martial arts as a museum is very different for children than for adults. So I had to act a bit playfully and theatrically to get that across and I was trained with some acting lessons to convey my part to the children with the help of these skills. Because of this project, I got in touch with Asian actors and directors and other creative people. That is when I realized that I could act as well.”

“Furthermore, I submitted a script proposal to CinemAsia last year. When we were allowed to realize the film, I asked all the people I worked with at the Tropenmuseum to join in. Including Aaron Wan. The film was called Last Minute Tea (2017). This year Aaron Wan had a nice idea that I could direct and produce. ”

Inburgering (Civic Integration, 2018).

“The story was written by Aaron Wan, but after that everyone had some influence in it, and I, as the director, I had the vision to make the story by someone else more complete and detailed. Inburgering (2018) has the underlying idea that the Western view of Asian culture, in this case, that of China, is very stereotypical. Even though we live in 2018. That is why we use stereotypes in a comedic way to convey our message. For example, that the language is difficult and that the food from a Western perspective may be strange. Stereotyping does not only occur when it comes to Asia but also with Africa or the Middle East and other countries.”

“In addition, we also discuss a critical aspect of civic integration. It is important to integrate especially for yourself, but why does it have to be so difficult? That is the question we ask. You see that the bar is constantly being raised because more and more people in Western countries are voting for rightwing political parties. They want to discourage refugees and asylum seekers, hoping that fewer immigrants might move to the West. I think it is important that people stand still to think about this.”

CinemAsia Film Festival and FilmLAB, “give me the opportunity.”

“Officially I’m not a trained filmmaker, I just happen to get in touch with filmmaking. FilmLAB gives me the opportunity to try out filmmaking. Even last time I got an opportunity to try out my creativity in film, and then your film is shown. That is very unique and now I am doing it again. Now I can develop myself further, gain knowledge and increase my network again. All of this is of great value to me. It is also a LAB, so you can experiment.”

“This year we have received a lot of support for camera, light, and sound. This is how local Asian filmmakers can also create a beautiful film that can be shown at the festival. That is why I think CinemAsia is so unique. It is a platform where I and others share their stories. If I go on with making films I will probably make a film with a Chinese theme again. I am not done yet. I still have a lot of ideas. So maybe next year or the following year you will see a film from me again.”

Professional ambitions?

“It’s hard to sell your story to a producer in this country. For me, a film is an expression of my ideas and stories that I want to tell. I’ll see to what extent and in what magnitude I can continue to do this. Whether it will be a documentary, short film or feature film. I’ll see how far I’ll get. Through my participation in CinemAsia, I have created a network of filmmakers who also want to realize their own film ideas. So in the future, we can all work together.”

Photo and interview by Feargal Agard.

Check for all information about CinemAsia Film Festival 2018.

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