By Mark Saldana
The very first film I watched from the festival this year is a fascinating, poignant and funny documentary that follows filmmaker Andrew Hevia as he attempts to make a documentary about an art festival in Hong Kong. At the time, Hevia was going through some personal turmoil and the film does not at all go exactly as planned. It actually becomes something remarkable, beautiful and personal.
I sat down with director Andrew Hevia and producer/editor Carlos Rivera who graciously spoke openly and honestly about the making of Leave The Bus Through The Broken Window.
Mark Saldana: (To Andrew) What initially attracted you to this film project?
Andrew Hevia: I had just finished gradd school and I was applying for a Fulbright student research grant. It is a study abroad program, a foreign exchange program for American students to complete a project of their choice in a foreign country. I had proposed a documentary about an international art festival–Art Basel Hong Kong–and it did not go according to plan.
Mark: What is the inspiration for the title?
Andrew: That is one of my favorite things. In the film, you can see that my apartment was not at all enormous, so partly how I dealt with that was I would take the city bus around the city as a free tour guide. The emergency exit on the bus has this sign posted and the sign literally says, “Leave the bus through the broken window,” in Chinese. (In English) It is just a stilted translation. I remember seeing this and thinking how it was such a profound statement of how I felt. It actually inspired me to start an Instagram account where I now only catalog weird signs I find.
Mark: You were going through a time where you were lost and confused. How did making this film serve as as form of therapy?
Andrew: One of the great things art is good for is processing trauma. It allows you to take control of the thing and then analyze that thing. The great thing about art is the ability to communicate things and feel a little less alone. So, the act of making the movie and collaborating with Carlos meant three years of processing and dealing with it and engaging with and arguing about it. It forces you to pick up the hurt and move it around and shape it. So then you can finally look at it and see that this isn’t me anymore. I have excised the demon.
Mark: (To Carlos) Please talk about your role in the making if this film.
Carlos Rivera: The way I would describe my role as producer is more in the way of a music producer helps shape an album with an artist and editing with him (Andrew). The questions were, how are we going to tell this story? How are we going to shape things? How are we going to stretch the narrative in a way for maximum impact? Can you go further? How vulnerable are you willing to be before an audience?
Mark: What is your main takeaway from what you winessed in Hong Kong?
Andrew: Hong Kong is a fascinating city with such a rich history and has so much going on. My personal takeaway was that the story of Hong Kong is not my story to tell. Hong Kong is going through a transition–generational shifts, political shifts, and these changes are always challenging. I found Hong Kong to be very inspiring. I think it is one of my favorite cities on the planet.
Mark: (To both Andrew and Carlos) What advice do you have for young filmmakers whose projects aren’t going as well as expected or not according to the original plan?
Carlos: You have to be willing to accept that sometimes your weaknesses can actually be your strength, if you are willing to accept the reality of the material that you have. If you are accepting if what you have and are willing to put in the time and the work, you could have something great. Don’t feel beholden to an idea of what your film should be. You just have to go out and discover it or let it find you.
Andrew: I didn’t intend to make a movie about myself, but it became a movie about my experience. I had the freedom and flexibility to be fluid. Sometimes money does not allow you that flexibility. Don’t try to make your movie look expensive. Try to make it interesting and these things do not mean the same.