Interview with Doris Yeung, Director of Motherland

by Melissa Silverstein
March 18, 2011 1:19 AM
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Motherland played Outfest in 2009. The film tells the story of the price of the American dream. It opens this weekend for a run in NYC at the Quad Cinema. Doris will be at the Quad Cinema for a Q and A following the 7:45 screening today and tomorrow.

Writer/director Doris Yeung answered some questions about her film back in 2009.

Women and Hollywood: What made you want to write and tell this story?

Doris Yeung: The story is inspired by my experience of grieving when my mother was murdered in 2004. I had been living in Europe (where I am still based) for a few years when I got a call to call home from a family friend who said they saw my house on television. I called my mother but there was no answer. Then I looked on the internet on the SF Chronicle page and saw there was a murder in my hometown and saw that it was my house and the victim was my mother. I returned to the US for one year to deal with the police and lawyers. I was very frustrated at the what I perceived as the lack of motivation and experience of the police on the case which still remains unsolved. I have a filmmaking background having gone to film school and decided to make a film as part of the grieving process and to draw more publicity to the case in the Bay Area. The film has not played in San Francisco yet but I hope to bring it there soon.

WaH: You say that the film shows the destruction of the American dream. Can you elaborate on that?

DY: I feel there are a lot of films, television and media which portray a one sided vision of the American Dream as the land of opportunity where wealth and success are to be found for the hard working and bold. It's a myth that is sold to countless immigrants and would-be immigrants to "lure" them to the country, to work in crappy jobs for their eventual piece of the dream.

What isn't mentioned is the dark side of the dream. What happens should one falter or perhaps fail? I'm interested in showing what happens to an immigrant family that appears to have achieved all the trappings of the dream, but as a consequence loses the actual family. In America, we place a lot of "faith" in justice, truth and the American Way. We place faith in the institutions who are supposed to safeguard those concepts, but what I explore is when those guardians fail, what can and should one do?

WaH: Now that the film has played Outfest what are the next steps to get it seen by more people?

DY: It is going around the festival circuit at the moment and we are looking for distributors. We are also looking at self-distribution opportunities.

WaH: As a female director who is based in Europe do you feel you have more opportunities as a woman director?

DY: I do feel as a female director in Europe, I have more opportunities due to the funding structure for the arts here. A lot films are subsidized by the government that sometimes support minority and female artists so their voices can be heard. As filmmaking is a male-dominated industry, those grants are necessary to spur more women to make films if they have financial support. In fact we have just received a grant for my second film!

WaH: What lessons and wisdom can you share with other women who want to be writer and directors?

DY: The biggest lesson in being a film writer/director I learned is that if you want something, and you keep at it, come hell or high-water, you will achieve it.

Motherland

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