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專訪《大佛普拉斯》導演黃信堯──人們拜佛,還是敗給虛無的寄託?

黃信堯在44歲這年,交出首部劇情長片《大佛普拉斯》,成為今年金馬獎10項入圍的最大贏家。在考進台南藝術大學音像紀錄研究所之前,他和電影圈沾不上關係,累積幾支紀錄片後,直到3年前以《大佛普拉斯》的前身《大佛》,入圍了金馬獎最佳短片,才讓世人瞥見螢燭之光。黃信堯的作品不求與日月爭輝,鏡頭點亮生命最幽暗的角落,雖藉信仰為題,卻沒替任何信仰提出解答,觀眾不得不跟著故事逼視,捧在手心的蠟炬,究竟有沒有求錯對象?

《大佛普拉斯》台灣|2017

獲2017金馬獎:最佳新導演(黃信堯)、最佳改編劇本(黃信堯)、最佳攝影(中島長雄)、最佳原創電影音樂(林生祥)、最佳原創電影歌曲(林生祥〈有無〉)

黃信堯,台南藝術大學畢業,早期紀錄片作品有《唬爛三小》、《帶水雲》、《沈ㄕㄣ ˇ 沒ㄇㄟ ˊ 之島 》等,2011年以《沈沒之島 》獲台北電影獎最佳紀錄片暨百萬首獎。2014年以劇情短片《大佛》入圍金馬獎最佳創作短片。《大佛普拉斯》為其首部劇情長片,並獲得台北電影獎百萬首獎及最佳劇情片。

與黃信堯談信仰,他先反問我們「信仰」的定義,不論是宗教或更廣義的層面,他的答案都是:沒有刻意去想。「我跟你講,人呀!你一旦貧窮,你連作夢都不敢。」
63年次的黃信堯在多神信仰的傳統台灣家庭長大,中學時就讀一神信仰的教會學校。在萬般皆下品的年代,老師眼中學生只分三類:會念書、不會念書、和沒有出息的人。黃信堯不會唸書也壞不起來,自認沒本事為非作歹,因此總被歸類成第三種──被視為沒生產力,也對社會沒貢獻的那一類。
弄不清楚為什麼,小時候的他常成為師長找麻煩的箭靶。小學五年級時,學校進行自治小小校長選舉,班上有同學起鬨投廢票,黃信堯參了一腳,只因同學的父母常跑學校,老師不敢動,他便成了代罪羔羊,不只被叫到台前罰站,甚至被扣上「長大會變成叛國賊」的大帽子。
「我沒有很氣,我只是很懷疑我到底哪裡做錯了?我只是蓋個廢票而已,為什麼會變成叛國賊?」黃信堯回想著說。年少的他,一直被尷尬地放在不被認同的地方,高一開學沒多久,就被學長叫到廁所打了一頓,一路霸凌到高三。問他憤怒嗎?「當然會很憤怒呀,可是你也不知道要幹嘛,你也不可能去打人嘛!也不敢呀!基本上就還蠻卒仔
閩南語,指懦弱、沒有膽識的人。
的。」他帶著疑惑和無處宣洩的氣,只有接受。
「那社會很現實呀!然後你又沒背景,人家知道你沒背景,第一個你沒有家長當靠山,第二個你沒有什麼學長當靠山,第三個你外面也沒有人當靠山的時候,你就是會被變成被欺負的對象。」黃信堯說。
電影《大佛普拉斯》裡有句對白:「有錢的人怕失去一切,沒錢的人內心需要救濟。」黃信堯認為,年輕人拜神,希望祂能改變未來的人生;老年人拜神,要祂庇佑子孫、保佑下半生甚至來生 ; 過得不錯的人祈求繼續維持;掙扎的人期盼轉捩點別發生太遲,那麼生活有困境的人呢?生命真的能寄託在虛無裡嗎?
「其實你看我的紀錄片,甚至包含《大佛普拉斯》,有一個中心核心的重點,叫做『荒謬』。」黃信堯過去的紀錄片裡,《唬爛三小》嘲弄社會的現實;《帶水雲》雖然放眼所及是心曠神怡的景色,但實際卻是個地層下陷的地方;《沈沒之島》紀錄了一座大家都說要沉,但其實根本沒有要沉的島,命名甚至巧妙安排,倒過來念就是「島之沒(ㄇㄟˊ)沈」。
到了《大佛普拉斯》,黃信堯依然詮釋荒謬的本質,不只是在黑白電影裡突然出現粉紅色機車,又或者在行車記錄器被任意當作新聞的時代,也有何不可的被他拿去成為拍攝的素材,他更藉由幾個鮮明的角色、彼此的權力關係,尖銳點出「人有靠山,應有盡有;沒有背景,一無所有」的事實。
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《大佛普拉斯》導演黃信堯。(攝影/蔡耀徵)
《大佛普拉斯》導演黃信堯。(攝影/蔡耀徵)
過往成長的日子裡,不被認同的困境讓黃信堯自我否定了許多事,直到一個機會成了他開啟尋求自我認同的開關。高中時正值民進黨在野,黨外運動野火燎原,16、17歲的他下課後騎著腳踏車,跟著中老年人一起聽候選人演講,他發現隨手取得的刊物裡所說的,與他在課本裡讀到的全然不同,甚至歷史的認知也不同。一樣的事件卻有著異於教科書的解讀,這顛覆了黃信堯的認知,促使他開始獨立思考,重新判斷報紙電視的訊息真偽,也推翻原本習以為常的事情。
大學時遇上時興的「人生規劃、潛能開發」,從大一就不斷有人強調人生規劃的重要性,一路談到大四,如同罐頭被灌輸標準生產流程一樣,卻很少人發問:不一樣的罐頭,怎麼會面對一樣的生產流程?「那時候我只有一個困惑的點,就是人的未來怎麼計劃?你怎麼規劃你的人生?」不做大夢的黃信堯,與其高談遙不可及的人生規劃,他實際的很,覺得不如認清自己的能力、做好眼前的事來的實在。
「你什麼都沒有的時候你能夠幹嘛?你就是畢完業之後,看你能夠找到什麼工作,然後你就去做,做了之後再盡量所謂的走一步算一步。」當導演前,黃信堯做過很多工作,曾經是地下電台主持人、參加過社運、在公關公司上班、也搞過不少黨外運動,卻沒未想過要拍「偉大的電影」,也沒想過會成為導演,還能導出一部劇情長片。
「你不會想說要拍什麼偉大的電影,講這種話都很空虛呀!那很不切實際呀!⋯⋯自己唯一能夠做的事情,就是當下把你的事情做好,那至於你說這個片子之後會不會成為一個好的作品?或者是一個爛的作品?那也都是做完之後它的命運,例如說好,這部片會不會賣?《大佛普拉斯》會不會賣?這我不知道呀!」黃信堯的這席話,對著我們說在金馬獎公佈入圍名單之前,而在隔幾日的慶功記者會上,媒體雲集,鎂光燈閃耀,這些也都是他未曾想過的事。
曾有前輩告訴他:「很多事情,退到原點其實是一個混沌。」黃信堯直言在這條路上,他無法想太多,只能按照直覺走,然後看見自我的極限,認知自己是無法改變世界的一個人,隨著潮流走的同時,又提醒自己不要太隨波逐流。
從最早拿攝影機開始,這個認清自己能力有限、不去想資源以外事情的導演,隨著歲月的歷練,而將鏡頭愈拉愈遠,定格在生命中每個出口的瞬間。問他做電影有沒有可能也是一種信仰?他說自己從未去想,比起信仰,更多的是幸運,幸運能以創作電影為業。
一個從沒想太多、太遠,只拍著眼下電影的導演,已經一路緩慢走到了現在,如同當他得知《大佛普拉斯》入圍金馬獎10項大獎時,他正在高速公路上塞著車,緩慢而龜速的前進,手機裡傳來許多來不及看的祝賀訊息,而他只是搖下車窗,淡淡地抽了一口菸,就當作是慶祝。
《大佛普拉斯》劇照,甲上娛樂提供
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When People Pray, Are They Throwing Their Hopes Into A Void? An Interview With Director Huang Hsin-Yao

In 2017, 44 year old Huang Hsin-yao (黃信堯) turned out his first feature film “The Great Buddha+”. It became the most nominated picture at the Golden Horse Awards that year, with 10 nominations.
Before being admitted to Tainan National University of the Arts (TNNUA), he had absolutely no connection with Taiwan's filmmaking circles. After putting a number of documentaries under his belt, he gained a small bit of notoriety for his 2014 Golden Horse nominated short film, “The Buddha.”
Huang's work isn't looking to compete with his peers, as his camera lens shines a light on the gloomiest of places. His work is about faith, but he doesn't stand in to offer any explanations about faith. Viewers are forced to follow the story intensely, carry a candle in their hand, and ask if their faith is misplaced.
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The Great Buddha+ (大佛普拉斯) (2017)

Received awards for best director, best screenplay, best cinematographer, best original film score and best original film song at the 2017 Golden Horse Awards.

Huang Hsin-yao's early documentaries include “What The Fuck Are You Bullshitting?” (唬爛三小), “Nimbus” (帶水雲) and "Taivalu” (沈沒之島). The latter went on to win best documentary feature film at the 2011 Golden Horse Awards, and an award of $1 million NTD ($32,500 USD). In 2014, Huang's short film “The Buddha” (大佛) was nominated as best short film.

“The Great Buddha+” is his first feature-length film. It won best feature film at the Taipei International Film Festival, as well an award of $1 million NTD.

When we discuss faith with Huang Hsin-yao, he first asks us, what is our definition of faith. Whether it means religion or some broader notion, his answer is always that he hasn't given it much thought.
“I'm telling you, people are all the same, as soon as they're are poor, they don't even dare to dream,” he says.
Huang was born in 1974 and grew up in a traditional Taiwanese household with polytheistic religious beliefs, but also attended a Christian middle school. Coming of age during Taiwan’s martial law period—where the only road to success was through education—teachers only saw three kinds of students: those who could study, those who couldn't, and those with no prospects.
Since Huang did not do well in school and felt that he did not have the skills to be a good criminal, he was always put in the third category: a person without any productive capability, the kind of person who could not contribute to society.
For some reason, he was a common target of his teachers' ire when he was young.
In the fifth grade, when the school conducted a small election for class president, Huang and his classmates fooled around and cast some spoilt ballots. But because his classmates' parents were regular visitors at the school, the teacher didn't dare to act against them, and Huang became the scapegoat. Not only was he called to the front of the class to stand in punishment, he was also labeled a child who was “sure to betray the nation” in adulthood.
“I wasn't that angry, it was just that I wasn't really sure what I did wrong. All I did was cast a spoilt ballot, so why does that mean I will become a traitor?” he said.
In his youth, he seemed to always awkwardly find himself in spots of disapproval. Not long into his first year of high school, he was called into the bathroom and beaten by an older student. He was bullied throughout his next three years of school.
Was Huang angry about this? “Of course I was very angry, but you also don't know what to do, you can't just go hit people! And I didn't dare! I was basically just a pawn,” he says. With a suspicious and guarded demeanour, he accepted that it was all he could do.
“That social setting was very realistic. That is, if you don't have a privileged background, and people know you don't have that background, such as parental support, or an older student who supports you, or you don't have someone outside of school for support, then you will become a target to be bullied,” said Huang.
In the film “The Great Buddha+”, there is a line: “The rich are afraid of losing it all, the hearts of the poor need a saviour.” In Huang's view, young people pray to god and hope that they can change their lives in the future. Old people pray that god will bless their offspring and to protect the second half of their lives, or even their next lives. Those who do well ask that it may continue, and those struggling hope that their turning point is not too far off. And then, what about people who are in dire straits? Can they afford to entrust their hopes in a void?
“In fact, if you watch my documentaries, and even ‘The Great Buddha+’, there is a central thematic point, which is ‘absurdity,’” he says.
The theme arises in “What The Fuck Are You Bullshitting?”, a documentary that pokes fun at the reality of contemporary society. His next documentary “Nimbus” appears to survey an untroubled natural landscape, but is really a land undergoing subsidence.
Huang's documentary “Taivalu” (or "the island which sinks into nothing” when translated literally into English) documents life on an island which everyone says will sink into the sea, but is actually not sinking at all. When looked at backwards, the Traditional Chinese characters of the title read “the island which has not sunk.”
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Huang Hsin-yao, director of “The Great Buddha +.” Photo by Tsai Yao-chi
Huang Hsin-yao, director of “The Great Buddha +.” Photo by Tsai Yao-chi
In “The Great Buddha+”, Huang maintains this quality of absurd commentary. In one scene, a scooter is suddenly revealed to be pink in the middle of a black-and-white film. Also, in an era where dashboard camera recordings can be manufactured into news, Huang uses such footage as scenes in his film.
Through the viewpoints of a set of distinct characters and the power dynamics between them, Huang pointedly narrates the line: “People with support have all that they need; people without backgrounds have nothing at all.”
Meeting disapproval throughout his youth, Huang would find himself in self-denial on many issues until an opportunity came for him to open the valve to finding self-approval.
When he was in high school, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was forming as an opposition party, and the fires of Taiwan's “Tangwai movement” had begun to spread.
Huang, sixteen or seventeen at that time, rode his bike after class to listen to election speeches along with the middle-aged and elderly. He realized what he read in radical Tangwai magazines and what he learned in class were entirely different, even in their understanding of history.
An event could be interpreted very differently from what was written in Taiwan's martial law-era history textbooks. This idea revolutionized Huang's understanding. It caused him to begin to think independently, to reconsider whether reports from state-run newspapers and TV news were true or false, and changed his views on many notions he had been used to.
In college, he encountered the popular slogan “planning one's life, exploring one's potential,” and from his freshman year until his senior year, people were unceasingly stressing the importance of having a life plan, as if people were tin cans undergoing a standardized manufacturing process.
Very few would ask: how could different tin cans go through the same manufacturing process? “There was one thing that confused me at the time, which was, how does a person plan their future? How do you plan your life?” he said.
Huang did not dream big dreams, and preferred not to talk about high-level life plans which seemed out of reach. He was very practical, and preferred the honesty of clearly understanding his own abilities and doing well in what was directly in front of his eyes.
“When you have nothing, what can you do? After you graduate, you find whatever job you can, and then you go do it. And after you do it, you go ‘day-by-day’ to the extent that you can.”
Before directing films, Huang worked many jobs: as a bootleg radio operator, in social movements, in publicly traded companies, and also in some Tangwai movement activities. He never thought about “filming great movies”, and had never considered that he would become a director, or that he would direct a feature narrative film.
“You don't think about making a great film, saying this sort of thing is completely empty! It's not close to reality!” says Huang. “The only thing you can do is what's in front of your face. And as far as asking, ‘Will this movie become a good work? Or a bad work?’ That kind of fate is only decided after it is done. Okay, for example, will this film sell? Will ‘The Great Buddha+’ sell? I have no idea!”
As Huang said these words, we felt that he must not have given much thought to the future of celebratory press conferences, media gatherings and flashing magnesium bulbs which followed the announcement of the Golden Horse Award nominees.
He says his elders have told him before that “many things, when you revisit their origins, are actually total chaos.”
Huang has walked this road in his blunt style. He doesn't think too much and can only go where his intuition leads him. He saw his personal limits and realized that he was not a person who could change the world. So he followed the tides while reminding himself not to stick too closely to the waves.
This director—who recognizes the limits of his own abilities, who doesn't think about much outside of securing resources, and who learned through his years of personal experience—has always pulled the camera lens further and further away, placing a freeze frame shot on every expressway exit in life.
We asked him whether perhaps making movies is a kind of faith. He says he hadn't thought about comparing it with faith before. It's more luck he says, making films is an industry of luck. A director who hasn't thought too much or too far, who works only on the film he has in front of him, has slowly walked a long road to the present day.
That philosophy describes how he handled the news that “The Great Buddha+” received 10 Golden Horse nominations. At the time, Huang was stuck in traffic on the highway, crawling ahead at a tortoise's speed. As his phone sounded urgently with news of congratulations, he only rolled down the window to quietly smoke a cigarette, and that became his celebration.

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