37th BFI Flare 2023
A young genderqueer person revisits their formative relationships and ruminates on their identity in this mixed-media experimental short.
Hi Rraine, thank you for talking with The New Current, how has your 2023 been treating you so far?
2023 has been good to me so far! Slow, but in the sense where I feel like I have been able to sow many seeds I hope to grow into endeavours that will shape the rest of my year.
Mooncake was funded by the 2020 Barbara Hammer Lesbian Experimental Filmmaking Grant, who sadly passed in 2019. As a filmmaker, what does it mean to you to get this type of support and funding from a trailblazing lesbian filmmaker?
I had the privilege of attending the film production program at Emerson College, which is where I was first introduced to experimental films. By then I had become pretty secure in my queerness, so of course, Barbara Hammer was one of those filmmakers I geeked out over. I was becoming acquainted with lesbian media but all I had watched thus far was pretty conventional so her style stood out. Winning the grant years later was a huge honour that felt like a full circle moment for me. It’s one of those names and legacies that will stay with me forever now.
What does it mean to you to have Mooncake, in the HEARTS Shorts section Chasing the Divine at the 37th BFI Flare?
I was pleasantly surprised when the programming team reached out and asked to see my film. Once they confirmed my selection, I instantly felt how big a deal it was to be part of the largest queer festival in the UK and thus how many more people I would have the opportunity to connect with. Being programmed with other queer Caribbean diaspora filmmakers also means a lot for me, and to be put specifically in the section centering love, romance and friendship is such a treat as Rom Coms are notoriously my favorite genre of movies.
What was the first LGBTQ+ film you saw that really left an impact?
Aside from Barbara’s work, I remember being floored after seeing "Tongues Untied" (1989), directed by Marlon Riggs. Knowing that it was released on PBS especially blew my mind. I love personal documentaries and to see the blend of poetry and performance done in such a striking way really inspired me. I don’t even think I’d seen a black queer story on screen before that moment and his influence has really stuck with me to this day.
How essential is it for LGBTQ+ filmmakers to continue to push the boundaries of the stories and themes they want to explore in their films?
While LGBTQ+ representation has increased a lot in commercial marketing and mainstream media both in front of and behind the camera, I feel like we have a long way to go in terms of how we are shifting the boundaries of the status quo. It is essential to strive for a world in which we are not all having to fight for a piece of the same slice of pie, in which the range of queer media humanizes and sustains us all — especially the most vulnerable members of our community.
"You will likely be surprised and inspired by how those perspectives were able to be documented and shared in a pre-internet world."
Can you tell me a little bit about how Mooncake came about, what inspired your Screenplay?
Mooncake is essentially a surreal reenactment of a childhood memory of Zi Lu, my friend and former housemate. Weeks before the grant application was due, Zi, Pangan (Mooncake’s producer and co-writer) and I were having a conversation on our patio where Zi re-lived this memory out loud for the first time ever since the time of its events. The story was almost absurd but watching it pour out of them, we really connected over their reflections on the happenings. The retrospective understanding of childhood moments that queer people so often experience was of course very familiar. Pangan and I, filmmakers by practice, began connecting with this story on a visual level and soon we had brainstormed enough for me to pitch it as a concept for the grant.
How important is the creative collaboration between you and you co-writers Pangan Eggermann and Zi Lu and how much flexibility do you allow yourself and your cast with the screenplay?
The film truly would not exist without the friendship and once shared home between Zi, Pangan and me, so our creative collaboration was hugely important. The script has very little dialogue, so we all had to be on the same page about what visuals we were gonna create. With Pangan spearheading the process, we each wrote a draft of the script and used our individual perspectives and skills to expand on each other’s work. Still, we left room for our main talent and movement director Kennie Zhou to collaborate with us. They are a queer, Chinese performance artist, among many other things, and we were really excited to invite them to add their own layers to the story.
When making a film like Mooncake is it hard not draw on your own life/lived experience when you are creating characters?
I would say so, yes. Even though I have never experienced the exact scenario that Zi did, there was definitely a reason I was immediately drawn to the story and felt a sense of recognition. Like many other queer people, I have been infatuated with more than one teacher figure throughout my life. That relatability is what birthed the project so we leaned into it.
What have been some of the most valuable lessons you have taken away from making Mooncake?
Since "Mooncake" deals so much in the realm of memory, it was important for me to approach the project as something that has a similar life span. If memories are ultimately stories we tell ourselves, how are they shaped and how do they change overtime? With the blessing of Zi, I encouraged everyone involved to have a hand in shaping the retelling of this memory as they understood it. I’ve realized how fundamental that is to directing anything — guiding the process but relinquishing all the control over how a story comes to life.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
I’d like to say it came from my love of writing, which I’ve been in touch with since I was very young. The medium was so new to me when I applied to film school on a whim and luckily I just fell in love with it the more I engaged with it.
Does your background in Production Design and Styling influence your filmmaking Style?
100%. Being responsible for recreating, or abstracting, the aesthetics of a culture in a specific place and time has really enhanced my concept of world building. It helps me better visualize, ground, and collaborate on executing whatever I am seeing in my head.
Has your approach to directing your films changed a lot since your debut film? What themes are you hoping to explore with future films?
It definitely has because I have learned so much since then, largely from working on other productions and witnessing the pros and cons of how different crews are run and how their visions are realized. I hope to tell more stories connected to my home island Jamaica and its diaspora, and to continue experimenting with mediums as a way to answer the question: what can be found in the crevice between the real and the surreal?
Do you have any advice or tips you would offer emerging lesbian filmmakers?
I think we should all be conscious of the legacies we’re building upon. I mean that to say, on the one hand, try to make a point to read and watch the work of thinkers and filmmakers from all the communities you identify with. You will likely be surprised and inspired by how those perspectives were able to be documented and shared in a pre-internet world. On the other hand, always ask yourself: how are you adding to the zeitgeist of the era? Filmmaking demands the use of a lot of time, money and resources and I think we should all take that very seriously and let it motivate impactful work.
And finally, what message do you hope you audiences will take away from Mooncake?
I hope audiences take away the reminder to stay in touch with their inner child and to keep offering them love and understanding. Our past, present, and future obsessions tell us so much about ourselves and those insights are never black and white. Take comfort in the multiplicities of your existence.