Håkon Liu • Director
by Annika Pham
Håkon Liu was born in 1975 in Norway, to a Norwegian mother and Taiwanese father. After spending most of his youth in his father’s country, he came back to Scandinavia to study free art at Oslo National Academy, then filmmaking at the School of Directing in Göteborg. He directed several shorts and a TV series for SVT. His feature debut Miss Kicki [+see also:
film profile] has received rave reviews in the Swedish press and awards at various festivals, including a Special Mention in Pusan and the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Prize at Mannheim-Heidelberg. The film produced by Lizette Jonjic (Producer on the Move 2010) was the first-ever Swedish co-production with Taiwan.
Cineuropa: How did you get the idea for the film and how did you collaborate with scriptwriter Alex Haridi?
Håkon Liu: I started out with the idea of sending actress Pernilla August to Taiwan, simply because I couldn’t come up with a story for her that was set in Sweden. Somehow the ingredients seemed right and the story fell into place. So I took Alex, with whom I worked with before, to experience Taipei. We talked and talked for several days and in a few weeks he came up with the first draft.
How did you convince Pernilla August to play the lead role and how was your collaboration?
Before I presented the story to Pernilla, I exercised some emotional blackmail, making her realize that I wouldn’t be able to make the film if she turned it down. Nobody else could play the part, I really meant it. Luckily she said yes. And she loved the story. Working with her was my best experience ever, both difficult and fantastic. Difficult because she sometimes was even more stubborn than me. Fantastic because her acting is gorgeous.
How was the experience of shooting the film in Taiwan, where you grew up?
Tough and fun at the same time. My challenge was to balance the Taiwanese and the Swedish way of filmmaking. On one hand, filmmakers seem to be alike all over the world, sharing the same passion for film. On the other hand, when cultural misunderstandings came up, I was the only binding link, being half Chinese. Because these misunderstandings sometimes simply cannot be explained, everyone needed to be a bit more generous.
The film has been compared to Lost in Translation, with the hotel settings; vision of the city; mix of Swedish, Mandarin and English. Did you have this film in mind or other films when making Miss Kicki?
Although I love the film, I thought of Lost in Translation as in things I didn’t want to do with mine. I wanted more intimate relationships with the locals and to avoid having too much fun with culture clashes. The alienation between mother and son is more apparent than the [clash] with Chinese culture. When shooting in Taiwan early humanistic works of Ang Lee and Hou Hsiao Hsien came up from my childhood and perhaps influenced me indirectly.
Producer Lizette Jonjic has been with you since your very first short film. Was that a comforting experience, to have her on board your feature debut?
Yes. Lizette and I are very loyal to each other, and she is very supportive of me, even if it means being brutally honest. We managed to stay tight and have fun even when Miss Kicki seemed impossible at times.
The film received rave reviews in the Swedish press. How was the film received by Swedish audiences? Has it sold to other territories? The film was very well received both in Sweden and Taiwan and it has been sold to several countries in Europe.
How does it feel to be Variety’s Choice at Karlovy Vary?
I’m very much looking forward to meeting the other talented directors, and since I am one of them, I feel a little bit talented myself and very honoured.
What’s your next project?
The title is Fuck Me, Kill Me, Hug Me and it’s a passionate love story about two teenage runaways.
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