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American sees beyond the glamor in filmmaking (3)

By Zhao Xu  (China Daily)

08:15, August 27, 2012

"In certain parts of Beijing, being a foreigner still begets curious looks and the occasional finger-pointing," he says. "None of that existed while I worked with the crew."

The village where the film was shot - so close to Beijing - has become a popular set. "So the villagers are accustomed to, even bored with, seeing star faces. And none of them would give a damn about a big white guy who's essentially nobody."

Over the past few years, Hubert has made a handful of short films, recruiting actors from among his artist friends and classmates - or randomly from the streets.

One is titled Banana, about a white American who traveled to Beijing, woke up one morning and found himself trapped under the skin of another man - a local rickshaw puller with a wife and a daughter.

At the end of the 11-minute film, after much travail, the man ventured back to the doorstep of his hotel room and bumped into Egg, the guy with whom he had mysteriously exchanged looks with.

"I know 'banana' is a byword for Chinese who have grown up in the West - yellow outside, white inside. The reverse of that must be 'egg'. And both represent for me conflicted identities and the nonstop search for true self."

"People judge based on their stereotypes, and would often not give others the benefit of doubt," says Hubert, still soured by his own experience of having learned Cantonese fluently but finding no one to speak to while in Hong Kong in the early 2000s. "They all insisted on talking to me in English, which is deeply frustrating."

Hubert says he adores a more profound - some may say abstruse - narrative style embraced by the Chinese art cinema, but doesn't think in a linear way.

"Comedy is my answer," he says, pointing to his reputation as a "class clown" throughout his school years. "It's my way of getting things out of my system without being judgmental."

In Love for Life, Hubert says, there is also a bathing scene - "the climatic end in which Zhang Ziyi's character lies submerged in cold water, then re-emerges to help cool her fevering husband down with her own chilled body."

Any luck being a stand-in for the husband on that one?

"I tried, but they wouldn't let me," he says.

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