Livia Huang on “More Happiness” / interview

The Chinese-American filmmaker was born in Baltimore, USA in 1990. She studied at Columbia University and at Brooklyn College in New York. She was awarded the Flies Collective Film Grant to make “Who Can Predict What Will Move You” which screened in Generation in 2020. Her work has been screened at international festivals including Rotterdam, the BFI Flare – London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival and Outfest in Los Angeles.

What was your starting point for “More Happiness”?

I originally wanted to make a short like the epistolary novel „Last Words from Montmartre“ by the Taiwanese writer Qiu Miaojin, who writes a series of letters to or about her old lover. The letters were going to be voice messages instead, but I couldn’t get over how annoying and banal it would be to receive so many crazy messages from your ex, even though that intensity is really amazing in the novel. Instead I made the dialogue a conversation between the woman and her mother where she obliquely asks for advice on the old relationship, which satisfied the not-talking-about-it-but-talking-around-it rule I had decided on. 

I was also inspired by the documentary „Hale County This Morning, This Evening“ by RaMell Ross, which uses place as a metaphor for time passing in these emotional, abstract flashes. I thought it was very similar to how I experience moments from the past, where the „narrative“ feels like a conclusion made afterward from these images or feelings that remain irreducible to me. I realize now also that both the novel and documentary are made by people in places that are not their homes. Because my parents immigrated to the US from China, I think a lot about what you keep secret for yourself when you are an outsider, so I am always interested in playing with access and legibility in my work. 

Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

I have two favorite moments where the lover in the film, who never speaks but is only spoken about, has two kind of accusatory shots as if she is contesting this story. My favorite part isn’t necessarily the visual but the sound from another place underneath. I really love how the sound can travel when the image is fixed and how it creates in this case a menacing resonance.  

What do you like about the short form?

I like that there’s fewer expectations for a short, so it can be either brief and visceral like a shot of liquor or more loose but still interesting. Nobody gets resentful if they don’t understand a short as long as they enjoyed something about it. 

Photo © Laura Bregman

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