Joanne Cheng as Judge for ALJAZEERA 2012 半岛电影节

Joanne Cheng as Jury in the 8th Aljazeera International Documentary Film Festival


19-22 April 2012

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Joanne Cheng Interview by Nader Talebzadeh, Renowned Iranian Filmmaker/ Film Critic/ TV Host

(NT for Nader Talebzadeh, JC for Joanne Cheng)

NT: Would you like to introduce yourself?

JC:  My name is Joanne Cheng and I’m a Chinese American filmmaker and a intercultural communicator who is travelling in search of certain type of truth.

NT: Where do you think you are in your life now? Which part of life are you in?

JC: I think I’m at the inter section of my life. I spend my first 20 years in China where I receive my Chinese upbringing and education. I spend my next 20 some years in the US, being educated in a western way. So I have been observing my own culture my own roots from the outside world. That’s why I position myself as a intercultural filmmaker. From the film making point of view, I think I’m in the transition moving from making documentary film into making feature film. I feel perhaps I can express myself in a more versatile way.

NT: You also teaching?

JC: yes, I’m teaching in film making in China. And I’ve been teaching in New York too.

NT: What is the area you would like to move into to complete yourself? Area that ‘s enigmatic, area you think you would move toward that you lack ?

JC:  that’s such a good question. I think spirituality. I was born as a Mao child, meaning that we were told not to believe in anything. I was born in 60th, and we were not introduced any religions. Actually, religion was condemned. Once I got myself into US, I gave up my own journalism career or job as an anchorwoman. I found out that Mao was condemned in the west. So for a long time I was very confused in terms of politics. I don’t know who to believe in all of sudden. Because we were told since young that Chairman Mao was the savior who built China. We were believing in him. But then the western world was condemning him in some way. At least, he was not celebrated. So I don’t know who to believe in anymore. That’s why I’m not a political film maker, although I know all film making is political. Regarding spirituality, Am I going to believe in Buddhism or Christianity? Or do I need to believe in any particular religion?  This’s something I feel I still need to seek inner truth. All films I am making are about human being at the edge of searching for something. Particularly when they are in countering difficulties, when they are under power, how do they arise as either minority or disabled community. So I always would like to see truth in humanity. Personally, or is it spiritually or religiously? I couldn’t really define. Shall I believe in something before I go?  I am fascinated about the idea of death too, seriously.

NT:  So maybe you should travel and see some other parts of the world and move into a area like middle East which you are not reaching before. One aspect of travel and to see things to have your mind tickled by other things that will guide you towards your own completion.

JC: Absolutely, travelling to Mideast for the first time through Aljazeera film festival is really intriguing. I’ve been travelling with my films but only in a sense of showing the films to audience in a theatre. I understand you are introducing the idea of exploring the world into a new culture that I’m not familiar with, and Mideast culture, Islamic culture, Arabic culture is totally fascinating to me. And talking to you is very interesting. I even purchased Arabic lessons or books. And looking at these scripts I feel this vast world that I am not familiar with. So I’m deeply curious.

NT: but at the same time I you are passionately pursuing. That ‘s the way I see in you in a very short time I know you. You are passionately dedicated to this seeking …not as a décor not as a pastime but a serious pursuit.

JC:  life is so short. Sometimes we just encounter individual, sometimes we just bound with them.  Sometimes you just feel them and sometimes you want to know them. And I went to Islamic museum yesterday. I just feel I need to go back.  How can I understand a culture without knowing its language? Chinese characters is pictorial, I see the Arabic language are also pictorial. What’s behind me is a perfect backdrop depicting my mind at this moment.

NT: Fantastic. I’m going to stop, you express yourself so well and honestly.