Rita Wong, the CEO of Cinematheque-Passion, Macau’s new arthouse cinema, knows her independent film. The Macau native previously worked in the Macau Cultural Bureau, where she did marketing for the two annual film festivals the city produced. She is excited about Cinematheque-Passion’s program, with an international documentary film festival finishing up at the end of the summer, and a film noir festival also successfully concluding.
So how did the Cinematheque project come about, was it something you saw the demand for, a venue to show local and independent film?
This project started some years ago, and the government took time to find the location, do preparation, etc. And finally, the idea was to give the operation over to a private tender, as opposed to the government. So we have the tender for three years, to 2019.
If I am a young person in Macau interested in film, are there enough resources for me to study here?
No. There are multimedia programs, such as at the Macao Polytechnic. Actually, there are quite a few local filmmakers who have gone through this multimedia program. And University of Macau’s journalism program has a filmmaking component. But there isn’t a dedicated cinema degree path here. But people can go abroad and study—many have gone to Taiwan and come back.
Whatever the education situation, do you see a unique identity forming in Macau, with regards to cinema?
I think Macau has always had a unique identity, even given its small size. Of course the combination of Chinese and Portuguese influences, but specifically on the landscape, the cinematic landscape. When you go to make a film here, you can very easily find good scene locations. And it has that touch of “small town”. So I think it already has a certain identity, you know, I talk to directors from Hong Kong, and they think Macau is a good place to shoot films, compared to Hong Kong.
And there are so many films shot here, from local independents to international blockbusters.
Right. And last month, when Japanese director Naomi Kawase was here for our international documentary film festival, we were walking just short distances around here and her hotel, and she was amazed by the historic richness of the locations.
There is a density to the area.
Yes, people are amazed because this place is so small. I think the historical locations make it a unique filming location. Also, I would say there is a freedom here for beginning filmmakers because they don’t need to think too much about the market.
That’s an interesting way to look at it—there isn’t that burden of expectations here.
Right, they can focus more on their creativity, and the message they want to bring out in short film.
And talking about creation, it’s interesting to consider the Cinematheque location itself, here on Travessa da Paixao in the shadow of the Ruins of St. Paul’s.
Of course, this is the Historic Centre of Macau, but from the very beginning, the idea was, how to make this space not just a subject for photography, but usable space that people come to?
Which is funny because the street is one of the more Instagrammed locations in the city center.
Haha yes but the plan has always been these buildings should have more use than just that. So you enter into the historic building, but then the rear garden has been reconstructed, with steps leading to the screening room, and above that the “film information room”, with books on film theory as well as computer terminals that will eventually house every film made in Macau.
What are your plans for the future of the Cinematheque?
As I said we have a three-year contract to operate the Cinematheque. We have plans for the full three years up through 2019, including film festivals and other projects. But beyond that, my biggest goal is to use this time to build a good foundation for whoever follows us. If we continue to operate the Cinematheque, great. But whether it is us or someone else, the most important thing is that we build a firm base, including cultivating the appreciation of independent film in the local community.
Check the Cinematheque-Passion website for ongoing events.