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A Beijing sex shop makes a revolution

This article is contributed by the Spanish website Zaichina

Interview with Sam Voutas, director of the new film Red Light Revolution

The teaser is also available here - unblocked version.

The Australian director Sam Voutas has done almost everything in China: documentaries (The Last Breadbox, Shanghai Bride, Dragon Sons, Phoenix Daughters), acting (City of Life and Death) and dubbing (East Wind Rain). His latest project is “a fun and rebelious” movie about a Beijinger that decides to open a sexshop to be successful in contemporary China.

Still in post-production, the teaser of Red Light Revolution (红灯梦) hit the Internet last week and has arisen many questions among the expats and Chinese who watched it. The movie is going to be promoted at film festivals as a "Chinese Comedy like you have never seen before."

Sam Voutas, photo by Daniel Mendéz

Question: How did the project start?
Answer: It started four years ago. When you are not acting in a movie or on TV, you have a lot of down time, so you have to find a way to stay creative. So then I started writing a script about a topic I thought was really interesting. Then the script got nominated in Australia for a film award, and then I started thinking that the script was maybe good enough that if I put together the money that I earned, I could make a good movie. If the script is good enough, and the idea is good enough, it should get to the finishing line.

Q: What is the story about?
A: It´s the story of a guy who loses his job and then he loses his wife, because she is very materialistic. He sort-of lost his way because of these things. Then he meets an old friend who says that if you want to earn money very fast in New China, you have to be willing to bang a little, you have to be able to do something you normally wouldn't want to do, and if you do that, you can earn money very fast and then you can do what you really want to do. So without letting his parents know, he decides to open a sex shop.

Q: Is it in the end a love story in contemporary China?
A: This movie is not so much about love: I wanted to stay away from clichés and typical stories. It's pretty much about values, and especially liberal values. It's about what's right and what's wrong, if it's wrong to open up an adults hop to make money. You have a lot of people, lots of businessman, who maybe don't care about how you make money. The only thing that´s important is that you get rich. I was fascinated by this.

Q: Then, why the sex shop?
A: It's just that things are quite the opposite way you expected it. You associate China with maybe socialism, or traditional values... so I was very surprised that in every corner there was a sex shop. Sometimes even many sexs hops on one little street. I thought this is something that hasn't been told in the West before, even though it is everywhere.

I think a lot of people in the West just see three hour long dramas about something incredibly serious or about Kungfu and other traditional Chinese movies. But China doesn't always have to be serious. With China, it seems that one movie always has to encapsulate the whole nation, which is impossible. I wanted to make a movie that I'd like to see. A movie in Chinese that when I finish my work at the end of the day, I can have dinner, watch it and have fun. And I enjoy that. I do that with Japanese movies, or Korean movies, because they are much more entertaining, but in many movies here, especially independent movies, the mentality is not that much fun, it´s missing the fun. That's why I really wanted to put that scene on the trailer when he puts the dildo on his head, because it's fun, and you know that it's infectious.

Q: That's why you say in the teaser that it is a Chinese comedy like you've never seen before...
A: Hopefully. I've certainly never seen a Chinese comedy like the one we've done. And to be honest, I think if you set the same story in Australia or in Spain it would also have the same appeal. But the fact that it's here, because you have contrasts, makes it even more attractive.

Q: What was the reaction of Chinese actors to the project?
A: Some of them were very excited when they read the script because they thought it was something they hadn't read before. And it´s very fresh and new to them. Lots of them were very keen to work, and also because it was fun: there are many kinds of characters who are very funny and interesting.

Q: Is everyone in the crew Chinese?
A: Almost. The movie is 95% in Chinese and pretty much all the actors are from China. The producer is half Chinese and the sound guy is Australian, but outside of that everybody is Chinese.

Q: What were their reactions to the sex toys?
A: I wish we could have got more of that in the behind-the-scenes, because it was like everybody was in a candy store. There was so much stuff and all the crew were picking up stuff, playing with them... my house is still full of boxes, completely full of boxes. We had a raffle party, and everybody got little hats and a number, and they all got toys, but it wasn't enough. We are going to have to have a public event so we can give out more stuff, because we still have boxes and boxes. Because we needed to get so much stuff so it would look like a real sex shop.

Q: From the teaser it seems the film has a feeling of old Beijing, you can see lots of hutongs and the old parts of the city.
A: I hope so. We tried to use beijinghua in the dialogue to make the film sound real. When you look at Chinese films, the ones that have to go officially through the mainstream, it‘s very similar to American movies in the ’50s. It‘s very traditional and they cannot deal with many topics. I wanted to put in as much real language as possible because that's what people really use, but you don't see it on TV or in movies. So there's a lot of swearing in the movies, but there is no more swearing than in real life.

We shot the movie near Dongsishitiao. Well, the shop is in Dongsishitiao. We also shot in the bar D-22, and also a lot in Caochangdi, which is sort of an art district almost in the countryside.

Q: Last year the movie Kung Fu Panda ignited a debate in the Chinese media about why a national symbol such as the panda was made fun of and was interesting to foreigners. Many wondered why that kind of movie hasn't been made by Chinese people. With your movie it could be the same situation, it looks like a film that Chinese people needed to make, but in the end it is an Australian director who had the idea and shot it. Why is that?
A: Yeah, I don't know why. Maybe part of it is just the foreign perspective. If you look at some of the great movies about America, you find Wim Wenders, who shot great movies. Or Werner Herzog in South America. Those are great movies by foreign directors because some things strike your eyes, and they have a different outlook. I'm not saying that my movie is 100% as good as it could have been, but it's maybe the different perspective that gives you that spark you wouldn't otherwise use. I think if a Chinese director goes to Australia, he would find something fascinating that I could never think of.

Q: Do you think it will have any problems with Chinese authorities and censorship?
A: Adult shops have been legal in China since 1994 and they are everywhere. And the movie is not actually that risqué. If you look at Lust, Caution, which was played in the cinemas here, there was still frontal nudity and so on. But we don't have any of those things. All the things that are in the movie are things that you can buy everywhere. However, I'm sure there´s going to be some traditional people who are going to have negative or mixed reactions to it.

Q: What about the title? I guess the Chinese title Hongdengmeng 红灯梦 has a connection with the classic novel Dream of the Red Chambers (红楼梦).
A: Yes, for sure. Well, the movie doesn't. But I just thought that it was a funny joke. And I also thought it fit in because in Chinese movies when they want to sell a movie that can't fit into the box, whether it's a horror film or one that is hard to be placed, they often have to say it's a dream. And if they say it's a dream, it's OK. So that was one thing, I wanted to put in the dream.

I spent a lot of time researching the title. It's also related to the Red Light District, which is a phrase that´s used in Chinese as well (Hongdengqu, 红灯区).

Q: What about the music of the movie? It seems it´s all rock-and-rolll contemporary Chinese music, with bands like Bigger Bang, Radiohip or I Love This Band.
A: Yes, it's mostly rock. That's because that's the music I like, but also because I thought it is a young and fun movie. There are some really good bands in Beijing that don't get much exposure, and I thought it fit the spirit of the movie quite well, because this is a rebellious movie.

Q: The movie is in post-production right now. What is the next step? Where can we watch the movie?
A: First of all is post-production, finishing the movie, and then we are hoping to send our work to film festivals and try to get as many people to know about it.

I've made this movie to be played in the cinemas, that´s my goal. Whether it's in America or China, I don't know.

But obviously I also know that nowadays the number of people who get their entertainment from the cinemas, and especially in China, it's actually very small. So if we can get it on DVD it would also be good as the movie is a little bit naughty and it lends itself well to DVD.

There are currently 1 Comments for A Beijing sex shop makes a revolution.

Comments on A Beijing sex shop makes a revolution

It looks funny, but I don't see it coming it theaters in China...ever

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