A Short Film by CAROLINE KAMYA
PENG LIU WEI
PENG HUI IAN
Written,Directed and Produced
Director of Photography
WANG CHANG FENG
Hubert Bals Funds, The Netherlands,Göteborg Film Fund, Sweden
Festival Cinema Africano, Asia & America Latina.
Fairytales have a fantasy quality yet their truths can be universal.
In FIREFLY, Caroline Kamya’s recounts vivid sensory impressions of the modest and rural Chinese town of SONG ZHUANG just outside Beijing through
the personage of the plucky, effervescent nine-year old PENG LUI WEI.
PENG LUI WEI’s sister PENG HUI LAN tells him a fairy tale which sends him on a voyage of discovery around his home town of SONG ZHUANG to seek the answers to six of life’s important questions from some of the towns folk. by creatively using fiction and documentary,Kamya’s FIREFLY is a Sometimes a surreal representation of the people and landscape of unique picturesque SONG ZHUANG through the actual the voices its residents.
Peng Liu Wei ( The Boy / Fire Fly)
He is a nine-year old boy who attends primary school in SONG ZHUANG in China.
A small town with humble people. He enjoys playing in town and most recently acting because it takes him on adventures.
Peng Hui Ian (The sister and story teller)
She is a twelve-year old girl. The older sister of Peng Liu Wei . She also goes to school locally and works part time
helping the family on the stall in the holiday and cooking meals at home for the family. She enjoys reading and playing.
DIRECTORS STATEMENT -MY 9 DAYS IN CHINA.
Firefly is a cross genre short film that uses both documentary and fiction film techniques. This is a style that I am steadily exploring and enjoying. With nine days in China.I had little time to create the idea, cast it, crew it and shoot it in a language that I do not speak.
Of course I enjoy a good challenge. “Film” is “Film’ in any language.I enjoy working with professional actors and non-actors especially children and older folk.i strongly believe that if you give children the confidence and set them at the task they will fulfill it and even exceed your expectations.
They have the wildest imaginations and that’s all you need to dream and also to perform. If they pull off a performance it can be magic.I cast the child non-actors in FIRE FLY from a fresh foods market on the edge of the village. Their parents run a stall there.After a day or two of hanging out and “ice breaking” making clay pots at a ceramics shop in the village we began shooting the fairy tale.
This six day shoot took us all around the town setting up appointments spontaneously meeting both local villagers and contemporary artists who populate the area. They were posed questions and the answers were from their own thoughts, experiences and ideas.I was keen not to try to tell a story of the whole of China following well trodden sometimes clichéd paths of past filmmakers and tourist trails.
I was more interested in making an intimate revealing the location in which i was living called SONG ZHUANG.I noticed that in this area was a mix of humble working families and contemporary artists. What I discovered is that those who cannot afford the steep studio rents in Beijing decide to set up in SONG ZHUANG and now it has a burgeoning contemporary artist community from filmmakers and fine artists to musicians and sculptures . Buddhism , Taoism and folklore heavily influence Chinese traditions .
in terms of my concept, i firstly wanted to look at my common themes between rural Uganda and rural China. One thing that was religion and tradition is very important in both countries. It was immediately obvious that the youth have great respect for the elderly and the art of oral storytelling to teach the young.My aim is to explore the people and place from a child’s point of view. I was also interested in the themes around birth and death. I have a keen interest in Buddhist and the cycle of life, from birth to death and the afterlife then rebirth is symbolic theme that I am familiar with.
The story for me starts in the morning when “born” and ends in the evening when “death” come to us all. The hope is the characters are reborn in the afterlife as the cycle begins again. The symbolism of the money is a theme I also wove into the story. Money is no replacement for knowledge and happiness and secondly I discovered that the burning of “money” in the graveyard is a Chinese ritual, as they believe they are sending it to their loved ones in “heaven” to look after themselves in the afterlife.
This practice is apparently illegal in China but not enforced by the law. The kids come from a modest background with little income from the vegetable stall. The idea of having cake for their birthday is pure fiction something they had fantasised about before while I am sure for some it the norm.
In fact on the day of PENG LUI WEI, the boy was so eager to eat the cake that we had to shoot it fast!
The FIRE FLY is the nine-year old boy PENG LUI WEI. He has an inner light the shines brightly. He is sharp, energetic, inquisitive, has a great sense of humour and loads of energy. His older sister PENG HUI LAN who is twelve was rather shy at first but seemed to be wise beyond her years.
In FIRE FLY the young boy tries to take control of the story from the beginning but as his sister tells him more he becomes enthralled by the journey he is and is a willing participant on the journey of inner enlightenment.He forgets about money leaving some of it in the “Boom-Boom” accidentally and then once he learnt his lessons he burns his last resources for the dead sacrificing for the others.
To me FIRE FLY is a coming of age film even if he is only 9 years old. Their imaginations would propel the story and the responses from the people he met would be straight from their hearts and minds over which neither he or his sister had any control.I took the time to travel by local “Boom Boom” (three wheeler taxi) around the area in search of locations with culturally symbolic reference and beauty.
With all these tools, observations and research,FIRE FLY was born. I wrote it in the style that PENG HUI LAN speaks in a convoluted sometimes non-linear fashion.I chose to shoot on a Canon 5D camera as it produced great images and it is small and non-obtrusive on location.
The shooting style was a risky experiment that I choose shooting locked off,straight on, cropping heads and no zooms. when editing the movie i discovered that it is quite a challenge to cut media from the canon 5D making for more complex workflow than i had first anticipated but the results more than make up for it. For the music score we recorded it live on location after the interview with Wang Chung Feng “the musician” interviewed by our Fire Fly.
It was incredible and I am pleased with the results. I wanted all the elements in FIRE FLY to be collected on site.FIRE FLY is a purely “organic” effort with no additives.Making FIRE FLY was one of the best experiences I have had on production and it is a great “souvenir” to have for the rest of my life. I hope we get the chance to return and film the back in SONG ZHUANG.Fingers crossed
BOY:Peng Liu Wei
GIRL:Peng Hui Ian
WRITER, DIRECTOR & PRODUCER:Caroline Kamya
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY:Chaq Qun (Chris)
MENTOR / PRODUCTION MANAGER:Anocha (Mai) Suwichakornpong
SOUND:Tan Mo (Momo)
MUSIC SCORE (Recorded live on location);Wang Chung Feng
PRODUCER:Inge de Leeuw
GRAPHIC DESIGNER:Steven Mitendera
POST -PRODUCTION TRANSLATOR:Zelian Ye
SOUND DESIGN & MIX:Eric Musyoka
COLOUR GRADING:Ephantus Gitungo & Kiunja Kuria
INGE DE LEEUW
FAN HALL FILMS
THE PENG FAMILY
ZHONG XIAO JUAN
LIXIANTING FILM SCHOOL
FILM FUND ROTTERDAM
THE PEOPLE OF SONG ZHUANG
LUI PENG LI
GUANG GONG WANG CHUN FENG
ZHANG SHU MIN
GINGER GINGER INK FILMS
International Film Festival Rotterdam
Developed and supported by the International Film festival Rotterdam 2011 for their program RAIDING AFRICA.
Partner China: Li Xianting Film SchoolSupported by Hubert Bals Fund,Goteborg Film Fund and Festival Cinema Africano d’Asia America Latina.
LOCATION – SONG ZHUANG