VIFF 2017: Interview with Sam Voutas

Author: Selenna Ho

What is your personal connection with the plot of the film?


It’s a very personal film, really. First off, I was becoming a dad when I was writing the screenplay, which is something the film explores a lot, and second it’s about things I went through in my own childhood. Living in Beijing in the 80s and 90s, it was a very particular time. The film is full of little memories from those days. And with the city now changed so much, I often find myself looking back at the old days, even if they were only twenty odd years ago.


What initially drew you to The King of Peking?


After our last movie was pirated in the streets of Beijing, literally a week after our UK release, I was surprised at the extent to which the bootleggers had gone to merchandise it, with DVD covers, their own film credits and the like. They’d done a hell of a lot of work, and it was surreal to look at, because it was for our film, but re-packaged. It got me started on thinking about underground film producers, working out of basements, people with big dreams fighting to get by.


How do you see Chinese citizens responding to this film?


So far the response has been positive, especially with people who grew up in the 80s and 90s. Our last film, “Red Light Revolution”, ended up finding most of its audience in China. But it’s early days yet, each movie is different. But so far it’s going really well.  


Which character do you feel the most connected with?


The dad. He wants the people he loves to see things from his perspective. But he wants it so much it’s the one thing he can’t have. He feels he knows he’s right, it’s just that in his mind, other people don’t see it yet. It’s something I think a lot of people can relate to.


Which scene stands out for you the most when working on the film?


Anything in the old Soviet style cinema. Our whole movie is centred on that place. That cinema is a character in itself, and when we finally found that particular filming location, it was as if all the pieces started falling into place. The cinema we shot in, it’s from the era itself, and there was a time not too long ago when it was a really amazing screening venue. One part of the film is really just a celebration of cinema’s heyday.


The LINK Magazine team had the opportunity to check out a few films during the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival. Check back here for more reviews and interviews with some of the VIFF filmmakers!