If there’s one thing we know about Flickerfest it’s that its touring program is diverse, high quality and very highly curated. The two-hour film festival hits Gold Coast this month, and nine of Australia’s best shorts will get a run. One of those films, is making somewhat of a home-coming.
Directed by Gold Coaster Tin Pang, and starring Lawrence Leung, ‘Mother, Child’ tells the story of a mother and her son, who are reacquainted and forced to live together after the mother suffers a stroke. There are physical and psychological challenges as well as the anxiety that comes with living with in such close proximity during a time of unavoidable change.
Director Tin Pang spoke to us about the film, which has already picked up a bunch of awards, and says it’s a sobering twist of life when a parent falls ill when they’re so young.
“It brings about an unexpected role reversal,” he said. “I don’t think you can ever really prepare for it, but when the diagnosis is shockingly immediate, like stroke or a brain tumour, and the prognosis leads to drastic life changes, there’s a radical adjustment, not just with the victim, but loved ones and friends as well.”
Tin experienced this himself when his mother Kitty suffered a stroke while living on the Gold Coast in 2015. An only child to his solo mum, Tin dropped everything, came home and helped care for his mother who could not walk, talk, eat or barely move.
“It really was back to square one,” he said. “I was on the Gold Coast for around six months with her, and during that time, helped her through rehab at Robina Hospital and then eventually with her return to home.”
“This was probably the most intense period, as you’re essentially left to figure things out on your own, especially the domestic and emotional aspects of life.”
“Mum was in a physical prison because of the stroke. I was in a psychological one because of the life changing shift.”
Watch the trailer for ‘Mother, Child’ and then read on:
Tin was planning on making a comedy web series but it was his mother who suggested he make a short film. Tin felt setting it around the stroke itself or in hospital rehab was a little contrived, but was fascinated by the mother-child relationship, particularly after someone’s mortality has been tested and the son basically becomes the parent to his own mother.
“Mum and I argued frequently in those first few weeks and months after the stroke, and at the end of the day, conflict is drama.”
I’ve always believed that real life is more dramatic than the movies, so you really do write what you know!
As well as directing, Tin also composed the film’s music. He says writing, directing and composing act as a three-way symbiosis.
“I actually fell in love with film music before I ever became interested in directing. I’m already thinking about the score before I write the script. And after the edit is done, I’ll go and lay down tracks using sampled instruments.”
In the case of ‘Mother, Child’ he recorded acoustic piano. But while he’s passionate about the score, he tends to use them at the end of his films.
“While I love to hear music that constantly underscores what is happening on screen, I’m a big fan of minimalism, as well as the use of diegetic music. It’s important to understand how powerful music for film can be when it’s used sparingly.”
When ‘Mother, Child’ screens at Flickerfest, it will be its Queensland Premiere. Tin Pang grew up in Southport and studied at Southport High and Griffith university before heading to LA and Vancouver for more study and work on TV sets.
“I think I grew up during the period where the Glitter Strip went through a cultural shift, from the ‘70s kitsch of Orchid Avenue or the pink and gold hues of the ‘80s to ‘90s Japanese-led resort boom (which literally did go ‘boom’ in the end), to a city that so wanted to be taken seriously in the new millennium.”
Tin tells a story of working with uni mate and producer Rob Barbuto on an idea they had to screen films in Surfers. When Circle on Cavill was developed, they approach centre management to hold a film festival on their big screen, anchored by a premiere of a local short film they’d just finished shooting. What resulted was Shorts on the Green – a film festival than ran for three years with hundreds of people attending. Like many cool creative projects, their funding eventually dried up.
“You might not believe this, but through Rob and the support of the Surfers Paradise Alliance, Shorts On The Green was actually the precursor to today’s SIPFest, the Gold Coast Film Festival’s current short film showcase. True story,” he said.
So, to say Tin is stoked to bring his film home is somewhat of an understatement.
“Flickerfest is really a landmark festival on the global circuit, and in terms of awareness, a key Aussie festival for me when I was growing up on the Gold Coast.”
“I think the curation of both the Australian and International programs is one of its strengths, and that comes down to the stellar efforts of Bronwyn Kidd, Amy Hoogenboom and the amazing team.”
There’s always a truly holistic focus with regards to diversity and equality with the festival, in a way that doesn’t draw attention to itself.
“Personally, I didn’t expect Mother, Child would be selected for Flickerfest, but I’m so grateful that it did. It was our NSW premiere, and with our upcoming HOTA screening, they’re supporting us once again by providing us with our Queensland premiere. We can’t thank Flickerfest enough!”
Once Flickerfest is over, Tin starts work on ‘A Place To Call Home’ and he’s already writing his first feature which will be a romantic comedy dealing with themes associated with ‘Mother, Child’. Although he stops short from calling it a feature film version of that story.
“For Kitty and I, ‘Mother, Child’ completes a journey and it holds a special place in our hearts. It became both a debrief to a life changing event and a cathartic experience that helped us understand each other even more. I’m excited to say that the rom-com will focus on young carers, a group I believe is under-represented in screen arts and society.”
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‘Mother, Child’ is one of nine short films to be shown Flickerfest on Thursday 15 March from 6.30pm at HOTA – Home of the Arts. Director Tin Pang will be in conversation with festival director Bronwyn Kidd after the screening. Full program of films at the Flickerfest website. Tickets at bit.ly/flickerfest18