Tag Archives: China

Interview: Hu Wei (Butter Lamp)

Director Hu Wei (Butter Lamp)

UPDATE (January 15, 2015): Butter Lamp has been nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Live-Action Short. Best of luck to Hu Wei and the rest of his team!

One of the most impressive short films I saw during my visit to the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival last January was Hu Wei’s La lampe au beurre de yak (Butter Lamp). In fact, I wasn’t the only one impressed; the film won the Grand Prix. I was tremendously pleased, therefore, to be able to bring it to Shorts That Are Not Pants this past October. The film has scooped up a slew of other awards as well, and it seems destined to become a short film classic. Director Hu Wei graciously answered a few questions about the film recently.

Where did the idea for the film come from?

The idea has existed for a long time, but it was not until 2008 at the FIAC Paris when I saw Michael Nash’s photograph “Warsaw 1946,” that I finally decided to write the script. In this photograph, a photographer uses a backdrop with some rural scenery to mask the war ruins while shooting a portrait for a woman, in Warsaw in November of 1946. This differentiation of space presented in one photograph has really impressed me and I think that is sort of a common agreement between Western culture and Eastern. After that I finished the screenplay of Butter Lamp.

Where was the film shot?

In the Tibetan region, in Sichuan, China.

Is the film a documentary, or was some of it scripted?

This film is entirely scripted.

The use of perspective is very clever in the film – we see only what the camera lens sees. What were the reasons for this?

We are unable to perceive the complete world; not even in reality. I wish to create a relatively enclosed space in the film; every one of the backdrops represents a Utopia of some sort. I was trying to construct a “happy” atmosphere at the beginning of the film; as time goes by and each of the backdrop unfolds, and till we are brought back to the real world, the difference between the dream worlds and the reality is finally revealed.

Still from Butter Lamp

Were your Tibetan actors all nomadic, like the characters they play? Where did you find them?

The actors who appeared in the film are all local Tibetan nomads. We went into the mountains, visiting one village after another in search of the actors.

How do you feel the Tibetan nomads relate to the woman in Michael Nash’s photograph?

I think that for the Tibetans, the woman is the photograph, they are all just people who have dreams.

Did you encounter any difficulties while filming? How were they overcome?

First of all, it is a short film and in China there is no specific filming permit [available] for shorts. As a result, we had many troubles during filming because we did not have a filming permit; especially for a production team consisting of foreign members [Editor’s Note: the film was a co-production with France]. Secondly, the entire filming process was conducted on the plateau of over 4,000 meters altitude, and that created both physical and mental challenges for most of the crew members from the flatlands. And lastly we had problems communicating with the Tibetans, they were nomads and non-professional actors and that was another barrier we experienced. It was time that overcame all the difficulties.

Full Program for October 23 Screening

It seems hard to believe, but we’re wrapping up our third season this month! Come on out on October 23rd for another great selection of short films. We’ll even have some details about our new and improved subscription package for 2015! Please join us!

Thursday October 23 at 7:00pm
Carlton Cinemas
20 Carlton Street (steps from College subway station)



Still from Stewart


Dir: Cathy Allen
Australia – 2014

The whimsical tale of an unlikely bromance between a young man and an abandoned shopping cart.

  • World Premiere

Duration: 7:30



Still from La Lampe au Beurre de Yak (Butter Lamp)


Dir: Hu Wei
France/China – 2013

A young itinerant photographer and his assistant offer to photograph some Tibetan nomads in front of various backgrounds.

  • Golden Firebird Award – Hong Kong International Film Festival
  • Grand Prix, National Competition – Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival
  • Jury Prize – Raindance Film Festival
  • Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival
  • Official Selection – Sundance film Festival

Duration: 16:00



Still from Frida and Dingwall Talk About Love


Dir: Amika Cooper
Canada – 2014

Two creatures explore their relationship and reflect honestly on the connection they share. No fluff, no romance, just love.

  • Achievement in Animation, Critics’ Choice, Audience Choice Awards – Toronto Youth Shorts Festival

Duration: 4:30



Still from Satellite Beach


Dir: Luke Wilson, Andrew Wilson
USA – 2014

Satellite Beach follows the unique journey of the Endeavour space shuttle as it travels through the streets of Los Angeles to the California Science Center and the final move of the Atlantis space shuttle to the Kennedy Space Center. Watch as Warren Flowers, a devoted and unlikely shuttle manager navigates the missions on his own accord while citizens, reporters, and officials are perplexed by his involvement.

  • Best Short – Knoxville Film and Music Festival

Duration: 26:00



Still from Spamorama


Dir: Mondo Ghulam
UK – 2014

The Internet hits back when spam becomes spurned for our dubious hero Cedric. Lampooning the scourge of inboxes the world over, Cedric and his video game-obsessed pal Godric learn a painful lesson.

Duration: 2:00



Still from Ghost Train


Dir: James Fleming, Kelly Hucker
Australia – 2014

Eighty-four-year-old Geoffrey has had to put his wife in a nursing home and feels completely alone until one day he chances upon a ghost train and takes a ride into Dracula’s. Inside this macabre cabaret-theatre restaurant, Geoff becomes captivated by the lead vampire in the show—a young actress named Gillian—and the two begin an unlikely friendship. As Gillian brings Geoff deeper into her world, Geoff also draws her further into his. Ghost Train is a documentary about the many forms of love and finding life in unexpected places.

  • Best Short Documentary – Hot Docs
  • Official Selection – Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival

Duration: 15:00



Still from Sabotage


Dir: Robin Rigault
Canada – 2014

A young couple are driven to face what the moving images are doing to them.

Duration: 2:30



Still from Drôle de Guerre (Phoney War)


Dir: Simon Panay
France – 2014

As his ill mother is brought to the hospital, young Matis must stay at his grumpy and introverted grandfather’s house. To escape boredom and loneliness, he decides to play with some of his grandfather’s belongings: an old gun, and a French Resistance medal.

  • Canadian Premiere

Duration: 13:00



Help us wrap up our third season strongly! The Facebook RSVP is free, advance tickets are $10, and door tickets are $12. And, by the way, 2015 subscriptions are already on sale!