Inside a CIFF-presented Film “A Quiet Night in Monterey Park”: Producer Liv Li’s Poetic Approach
As we travel through life, there are multiple voices guiding us; the most prominent of these is the dreamer and the practical negotiator. These voices are not combatants but rather siblings who help us find our way. They inhabit us. Producer Liv Li is an example of this in the world of film, visualizing the potential of a great story and empowering it and her collaborators with her skill. Poetry is an appropriate descriptive term for some of the most lauded productions Liv has been a part of creating. Both in the cadence of these and sometimes rooted in the subjects (as with a documentary about rapper Key. L’s experiences), Liv Li is highly adept in manifesting the components for extraordinary filmmaking. The spectrum of emotions on display in A Quiet Night in Monterey Park, starring actor Yu Lu who is best known for his collaboration with Woody Allen in Hollywood Ending (2002), alone declares this profoundly. Inspired by the great films of America, Europe, her homeland China, and beyond, Liv Li is cultivating films which exhibit the immense emotive power of cinema in modern times.
It’s difficult to accurately describe the powerful impact of A Quiet Night in Monterey Park. The film community has already vetted this film’s exceptionalism with numerous nominations from across the world including the 44th Cairo International Film Festival (Academy Award Qualified), the 22nd Rome International Film Festival, the 27th Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival (Academy Award Qualified) and others. The film is more of a visual essay than what is often referred to with the moniker “film”, starkly void of dialogue and perhaps more effective because of this. The absence of spoken language is far from detrimental to the sorrow and joy that the story elicits, it results in a greater accessibility to all peoples and countries. Liv Li recalls, “When director Charles Xiuzhi Dong, award-wining director, best known for Anshan Diaries, recognized by multiple Academy-Award qualified film festivals, first sat down with myself and Cinematographer Mufeng Han, he explained how he wanted to discuss love, loss, and time while also to pay tribute to old films that have great impact on us. Visually, we all agreed to follow the cinematic style that these old melancholy and poetic films adopted almost 80 years ago, by using a lot of slow movement or static shots with low angles to be more ‘objective’, because we all believe the emotions/moments that this film describes are very universal. We all have someone whom we have deeply loved and lost; the audience doesn’t need ‘fancy’ narrative film language to be attached to these characters. As the producer, with all these things in mind, I knew exactly where I should spend more money on and where to save. Finding a singular location with all the important elements, particularly the perfect lobby, was essential.” Overnight shoots are always demanding on any budget and A Quiet Night in Monterey Park was completely comprised of these. Liv Li was the keystone in keeping the production on course and the crew safe and efficient and this film’s eventual magnificent final form. With the widely praised and various award attention, Liv Li and director Charles XiuZhi Dong are presently working on the feature-length script of this melancholy story.
The versatility of Liv’s producing skillset is evident in the documentary film Hi There which follows Chinese rapper Key. L in his travels to Yangshuo, a county and resort town in southern China’s Guangxi region, to experience a different type of lifestyle. Released on China’s largest streaming platform Tencent Video (with over 1.26 billion active users and subscribers) Hi There has amassed over one million views and received “Best Commercial Short Film” in HiShorts Film Festival in China. Viewers witness Key L. immersed in surroundings and a way of life vastly different for him and one which testifies to the idea that an appreciation for others is found by experiencing life as they do. Hi There is a lesson in mutual respect that the world is deeply in need of these days. Liv Li enthusiastically took on this project and the message it communicates. She professes, “I’ve always been interested in documentaries and wanted to explore different ways of narrative. I was really happy to be able to produce this film because I also get to explore these different lifestyles myself. I think that’s the different part. You get to be part of it and as you experience it as the production goes on, you also change creative directions with it. As a producer, you’ll have to have flexibility to manage the physical production, comparing to narrative projects, which really excited me.” Liv Li is currently working on distribution of this meaningful film in the United States, so that its poignant message may reach a wider audience.