California-based filmmaker Mun Chee Yong is among the many first-time directors screening projects at WorldFest Houston. Her film, Where the Road Meets the Sun, was seven years in the making and underwent various changes in characters and plot.
"I started writing this in 2006, and at the time I was very angry," Yong tells Art Attack. She was angry about world politics, about the constant wars and genocides. And she became more enraged when she saw the news that a Brazilian immigrant living in London had been shot to death by police who mistook him for a Middle Eastern terrorist. In large part that incident sparked the beginning of Where the Road Meets the Sun.
"I saw where he was an electrician from Brazil, all he wanted was a better life, but they killed him. And I started wondering about the day before the shooting, what had his life been like?"
The original script had just two main characters and ended violently. Eventually, Yong added two more and softened the ending. The characters include a Japanese yakuza who has awakened from a coma and lost most of his memory, a New Yorker who lost his marriage over a one-night stand, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who is having a tough time making ends meet, and an undocumented British immigrant who is carefree, living off of his father's money.
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"For the two younger men, it's about their dreams," says Yong. "For the two older men, it's about regrets and wanting to start again. It was fascinating for me to put together people who are in different stages of their lives, and yet they have something in common."
Asked if the film is in any way autobiographical, Yong hedges. "The characters are not based on me, but what they go through, what they're trying to do, are things that I went through or tried to do at some point in my life. Not the physical, like crossing the border illegally, I never had to cross a border that way. But the emotional journey each one took, I have had some of those experiences."
WorldFest Houston is Yong's first film festival. She'll have a second screening of Where the Road Meets the Sunlater today, but the world premiere was last Saturday. "I had a lot of thoughts and was very nervous when the screening started," she says. "Then when it was over, I thought, 'Oh, that's it? It's over?' But those 93-minutes were once in a lifetime. It's my first feature and my first screening. I hope I have lots of other films, but I'll never have my first feature again. It was very special."
The film screens tonight at 7 p.m. at AMC Theatres - Studio 30, 2949 Dunvale. For tickets, click here.