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“The Walking Stick Is the Object That Ties Their Fates Together”: Cedric Cheung-Lau | The Mountains Are a Dream That Call to Me

Alice Cummins and Sanjay Lama Dong appear in The Mountains Are a Dream That Call to Me by Cedric Cheung-Lau (courtesy of Sundance Institute)

Whether capturing or creating a world, the objects onscreen tell as much of a story as the people within it. Whether sourced or accidental, insert shot or background detail, what prop or piece of set decoration do you find particularly integral to your film? What story does it tell?

In a film shot in so many wide landscapes, where our characters are sometimes just dots in the space, I think it’s a culmination of tiny details, some which may not even be seen, that gives the film its character and emotion. More overtly and specifically however, the walking stick Tukten gives Alice when they first meet is particularly integral to the film and tells a larger story.

The walking stick is the object that ties their fates together—a small gesture that speaks volumes about the generosity of Tukten and insight into how his character thinks and behaves. Furthermore, I think it’s also part of the mountain’s story and represents it’s generosity as well. It’s difficult to talk about the larger story of the walking stick without getting too philosophical and abstract, but ultimately for me it’s about perspective and the life of these objects which are given and received. 

When you try to think about the life of this walking stick, which comes from a bamboo forest, you think about how many people have come across it, used it, and left it at the end of the trail for someone else to use. Or how it’s shared a life on or with the mountain, but the mountain still gave it to someone to use. Giving may be too active of a term here, but the sentiment can still exist. These journeys are all never ending, the walking stick may see another hand at the end of Alice’s journey, or it may simply lie down and return, while enriching the mountain and telling its stories of the people who have held it.

In some ways I think that when a simple object that has been worn down over time, such as this walking stick, is seen on screen, it’s telling all those stories and carries that weight.

Sundance Responses 2020

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