USA | 17 minutes | 2019
Drama short film by Zhejian (Micheal) Cong
Starring Fang Du, Joyce Keokham
The following film contains graphic material that may be harmful or disturbing to some audiences. Viewer discretion is strongly advised.
Chinese title: 雏
In the lawless New York underground world of Chinese mobsters, Wei, a low-life thug, receives a mission to deliver a “high-value” virgin prostitute to an important client. Along the way toward their dismal destination, Wei sympathizes with Lulu, the naive virgin. After Wei takes Lulu to eat, Lulu begs Wei to let her go. Caught between following the boss’s order and freeing a defenseless girl, Wei has to make a decision.
CineAsian Films (CAF): What inspired you to explore a story like this?
Zhejian Cong: The short film tells a dark story, which is based on true event. The reality is much darker and more brutal than fiction. As a Chinese filmmaker living in New York, I am intrigued by the situations of the immigrant community, especially those who arrived illegally. Having a home yet unable to return is miserable. The world illegal immigrants face is sometimes a cruel, involuntary, and hopeless one. I wish the reticent and passive protagonist in my film to be a silent protest against the current situation. In my short film, I refuse to make any moral judgment, and only wish to represent the events that happened. Those who are out of the context have no right of making a moral judgment.
CAF: We couldn’t help but get some Wong Kar-wai vibes from your film, especially the cinematography. What were some of the films that served as visual inspirations for Rootless?
Cong: Yes WKW is a big influence that’s hard to escape from. Both I and my cinematographer love Fallen Angels, specifically the vast contrast between the vibrant neon colors and the loneliness of the characters surrounded by it. There’s a sense of artificiality and distance in those highly saturated colors. Taxi Driver is another big visual inspiration for us, we go to Taxi Driver a lot when figuring out how to portray a dark NY night from inside a car.
CAF: Nearly the entire film takes place at night. What were some of the biggest challenges you faced filming at night?
Cong: During the production of Rootless we have four overnight shooting days, and that’s probably the hardest challenge for everyone physically and mentally. Besides that, we really have to pick out streets and corners in the middle of the night that aren’t just completely empty and dead, because we don’t want it to feel like the story happened in a ghost town. A lot of times we had to have our production van following the picture car left and right in frame so it didn’t look like there’s only one car on the road.
CAF: What are some projects you’re working on right now?
Cong: I’m currently working on my first feature film that’s hugely inspired by the separations that happened this year during the pandemic. I’m fascinated by the delicate relationship between an individual and its habitat, the city, in the modern context.
Rootless is one of the many great projects shared with CineAsian Films through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them, submit your film.
Director, Writer: Zhejian (Michael) Cong
Producers: Jinshuo Zhang, Lu Zhang
Cinematographer: Zhengfei Wang
Editors: Yuxing Li, Hyuk Lim
Composer: Kuan He
Also featuring: Fenton Li