The 52nd HK Arts Festival .Feature

Documentary theatre A Director Sitting Still 2.0: story of the late director Hu Bo

Text / Wang Chong

After Hu Bo's death, his friends were utterly perplexed. F was shocked because just a few days before, they had dinner together and discussed their next project. Q was deeply saddened, as for her, their friendship had only just begun and was suddenly cut short.

If Hu had been a salesman or an electrician, his death wouldn't have caused much of a stir.
But Hu happened to be a film director. He was different: aged just 29, slim and tall, casually dressed, and his eyes lit up when he talked about movies.

The death of a young director was not just news, it sparks off discussions and imaginations. A director can only become a legend through his or her work. One year after his passing, his four-hour-long feature An Elephant Sitting Still won the top prize at the Golden Horse Awards. Journalist K wrote an article titled "The Legend of a Suicide".

For me, art has always been about doing what one knows cannot be done—my heroes in literature are figures like Shi Xiu and Sanada Yukimura, and in real life, my role models are like Hu. When I first heard about him, the buzz of the Golden Horse Awards had already subsided. After contacting K, I immediately had the idea to make a documentary film. Hu's colleague, G, immediately stepped in to stop me, saying I hadn't made a documentary before and wasn't qualified. After some struggles, I dropped the idea and forgot about it.
In 2021, more than three years since Hu's passing, people had forgotten about Hu. That year, I saw An Elephant Sitting Still in Hong Kong and read his novels. I realised that I couldn't let him go. Unable to help myself, I remained true to my heart and rekindled the idea of making a documentary. And I would give the documentary a title I had thought of long ago: A Director Sitting Still.
In An Elephant Sitting Still, the elephant is in a distant town, and the act of "sitting still" carries a sense of absurdity and helplessness. In A Director Sitting Still, "sitting still" became the way that one artist remained true to himself.
While making the documentary, Singaporean director Liu Xiaoyi and I started planning a documentary theatre piece, A Director Sitting Still 2.0. We invited two of Hu's friends to take part. Actor Zhang Yu was struggling with the death of his friend; could a shamanistic ritual on the Inner Mongolian grasslands allow him to connect with Hu again? Artist Yu Yaoyao had kept the clapperboard from An Elephant Sitting Still all these years. What secrets did it hold?

If the documentary is about Hu, the documentary theatre piece is about us. To borrow Raymond Carver's words, what do we talk about when we talk about Hu Bo?

Editor's note: The writer, Wang Chong, is the co-director and actor of A Director Sitting Still 2.0.
Hu Bo (1988-2017), also known by his pen name Hu Qian, was a writer, director and screenwriter from mainland China. He graduated from the Department of Directing of the Beijing Film Academy. One of his short films, Distant Father,won the award for Best Director at the fifth Golden Koala Chinese Film Festival. His other famous works include the novel Bullfrog. His novella Big Crack won the first prize at the Global Sinophone Film and Fiction Awards. Hu's posthumously released film An Elephant Sitting Still won the awards for Best Feature Film and Best Adapted Screenplay at Taipei Golden Horse Awards.

A Director Sitting Still 2.0

Date: 21-24 Mar 2024

Venue: Studio Theatre, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

Details: https://www.hk.artsfestival.org/en/programme/A_Director_Sitting_Still_2?