For IFC News, Aaron Hillis chats with filmmaker Wayne Wang about his two new films: A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and The Princess of Nebraska. The former will be released by Magnolia Pictures in theaters starting this weekend. The latter will be released by Magnolia and Cinetic Rights Management, on YouTube’s Screening Room starting October 17. The decision to release these two films on separate platforms is a way of paying tribute to the dual nature of what led Wang to make these films together. From his interview with Hillis:
Hillis: What led to you collaborating on back-to-back films with Yiyun Li?
Wang: Well, they’re both short stories from the collection called “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.” I had a lot of younger Chinese women working on the film as assistants and what-not, and I became more obsessed at the same time with “Princess of Nebraska,” which is about someone in their twenties — a completely different type of story, yet thematically linked. By the time I finished “A Thousand Years,” I had some money left in the budget, and I asked the investors, “Can I make ‘Princess of Nebraska?’ We’ll do it kind of down and dirty, a little bit like ‘Blue in the Face.'” So we did two films that are basically sister films. In France, where I just came back from doing press, they’re showing the two films together. “A Thousand Years” is about a woman who is trying to run away from her past because of the Cultural Revolution, and what her father went through. And “The Princess of Nebraska” is about a woman who doesn’t have a past, who doesn’t really have a history, and is trying to find herself everywhere. So they are kind of a diptych.
Hillis: Was “The Princess of Nebraska” shot as quickly as “Blue in the Face,” which you did in just six days, if I’m not mistaken?
Wang: Yeah. It’s not as improvised as “Blue in the Face,” but is the same kind of guerilla-style filmmaking. We had a script, we did some rehearsals, and it was all non-professional actors. We shot it with no permits, with a small HD camera — very small, one of those consumer ones. It was done very much on the fly.