You’d be forgiven if you sense director Andrew Hevia has a fixation on his own feet. The Los Angeles-based documentary filmmaker (not to mention Oscar-winning producer of Moonlight) spends a lot of time pointing his camera at his casual, black Rag and Bone sneakers in his latest movie Leave The Bus Through The Broken Window. It’s an odd fixation in what is supposed to be a documentary about the Hong Kong art scene in the shadow of Art Basel Hong Kong. Through this device, however, he captures an honest feeling of his experience while tasked with a giant undertaking: examining the impact of the world’s largest art fair on the local Hong Kong art scene, a scene where he doesn’t speak the language nor know too much about the culture.
Hevia, who graduated from the New World School of the Arts in Miami and co-founded the Borscht Film Festival with classmate Lucas Leyva, once took on a similar project. In 2012, he produced and directed a documentary exploring the relationship of Art Basel Miami Beach on Miami’s art scene. We first met to discuss Rising Tide just as it was to premiere on local public television (Rising Tide – Miami Art documentary airing on Public Television tonight). Three years later, Hevia would go on to win a Fulbright grant to make a similar documentary in Hong Kong. However, he underestimated the challenge that lay ahead, especially since production on Moonlight was pushed back, which in turn delayed his ability to spend time in Hong Kong for research.
Back to those Rag and Bone shoes. That perspective turns out to be crucial in capturing the alienating experience of attending an art festival where the filmmaker feels out of his element. The primary language is Cantonese, and Chinese culture has deeper and a much longer historical record than U.S. Culture. Hevia tries to maneuver through that culture in a city still struggling with its relationship with a colonial past, which erupts in the film during a visceral scene juxtaposing violent protest and the narcotizing effect of retail therapy. He also has the more mundane task of dealing with undecipherable foreign signs revealing which direction is what. It’s only natural that his camera lens should drift to his feet in both these occasions.
“In my mind, the act of traveling from place to place was part of that movie,” says the filmmaker via cellphone, while hanging out on a balcony in Los Angeles. “Most of my Hong Kong experience, not having a car, was either MTR [Mass Transit Rail], the trolley or walking, so how do you convey that experience? What is the transition from A to B? I walked, so OK, show that.”
He confesses that it made for a “weird fixation,” and that his editor and co-producer on the film, Carlos David Rivera, was not a fan. In fact, Hevia admits, Rivera’s one bit of feedback on the film’s first cut was “less feet.” He also gives Rivera plenty of credit for the film’s perspective. “That process of editing with him was 70 percent editor and 30 percent therapist,” says the director, “where he would sit me down and say, ‘What was going on in this scene? What were you trying to convey?’ And then I would explain the story about my heartbreak and this girl I met in New York, and he would say, ‘OK, well put that in the scene.’ And the scene would evolve around me so that … my personal arc became the movie and everything else became sort of texture and background … He elevated it significantly. It was an extraordinary collaboration.”
Hevia was in a bit of a slump before he returned to New York City with all the footage he had collected during and around Art Basel Hong Kong. He spent 10 months in this foreign land to work on the documentary thanks to funding via the Fulbright U.S. Student Research Fellowship. He only left on Oct. 1 and headed straight to New York City for the premiere of Moonlight the day he landed. “I remember the flight from Hong Kong to New York, and I had this intense moment of sadness,” he recalls. “I had just left adult summer camp. I had a year to work on my own art. I was covered. I got to travel. I met all these interesting people. I got to live this like fantasy baseball camp for adults and land in New York, go to the premiere of that movie and suddenly realize that I think my own life became a sort of fantasy camp. Like, who would have thought this tiny little movie we made [Moonlight] was going to be received the way it was?”
Leave The Bus Through The Broken Window is not Moonlight, however. It has no distribution, and it’s narrative is experimental. On a superficial level, there’s a robotic voiceover narrating events in the second person perspective (using the “you” form of the subject). But on a profound level, it rather indirectly circles about its subject to come to an illustrative truth about art. You can read more about that in my Miami New Times article about the filmmaker’s return to South Florida to host a pair of one-time only screenings of Leave The Bus Through The Broken Window. Jump through the headline below to continue reading on the effect of bringing a subjective experience to art in order to get to a grander truth about the medium:
Leave The Bus Through The Broken Window will have special one-day-only screenings on Thursday, October 17, at 7:30 p.m., at Broward College’s Bailey Hall, 3501 SW Davie Rd., Davie, 33314, and Friday, October 18, at 8 p.m., at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211 St., Cutler Bay, 33189. Director Andrew Hevia will be present at both screenings for an introduction and Q&A.