Talking White 談白
Talking White is about the journey taken by Christopher Doyle and Jenny Suen to make the film The White Girl. It was published in November 2017 alongside the film's theatrical release, and quickly became the best-selling book in the arts section at the Eslite Bookstore in Hong Kong. Here is an excerpt:
The year was 2010. I had just come back to Hong Kong after eight years of living in America. I was home but I felt adrift. I looked outside my window. There were a few fishing boats. A reservoir. An old white house. A fishing village. I started to write. What I wrote that day eventually became this film.
When I was a kid, I often took a kayak out to explore that village. The grannies washing their clothes on the waterfront would wave hello to me. The fishermen on the dinghies would cheer me on as I rowed out to a nearby sea cave to watch the waves.
That fishing village is empty now. Nobody lives there anymore. It feels out of space, out of time.
For much of its history Hong Kong was just a cluster of fishing villages. If you go to those same spaces today, you’ll see that the fishermen’s culture, their livelihood, their language, their saltwater songs, are all but gone.
A future in which our city might meet the same fate does not seem so far away.
This film is a search for identity and space at the moment of its disappearance. I was born here in 1983. I grew up in two languages: English and Cantonese. I felt unmoored in this translated world. But isn’t film another language? Film is a language that takes us to another world, a world of our own creation.
All the years we spent making this film was an act of becoming.
We shot for two days in another sea cave close to where I grew up. The sea was wild the last day. A typhoon was coming. The waves crashed high up against the rocks, exploding into white before falling back to where it came from. I couldn’t stop looking.
That was when I decided: a white sea is what I want to be. Strong, confident, and free. A white sea reaches for great heights but always returns to its roots.
How high did we go in this film? I don’t dare say. We tried our best. We did what we could with what we had. Now we’re back where we came from. Isn’t it beautiful here? Pearl of the East, Pearl Village... Hong Kong."