Taxis are an ubiquitous part of most countries, but few of us consider them beyond serving an immediate need–getting from one place to another. In Taxi Stories, director Doris Yeung focuses the camera on that journey, setting her film and her characters in various forms of taxis over three different countries. From Hong Kong to Jakarta to Beijing, we follow these characters through their travels and through those inconspicuous, subtle shifts in perspective and understanding. We are all traveling, Yeung seems to remind us in the film, all moving in circles around each other.
As part of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival’s premiere of Taxi Stories, I had the chance to speak with Doris Yeung about the film, her own diaspora background, and the connections we forge.
As someone who’s lived the diaspora life—going from the US to Hong Kong to the Netherlands—what influence has that had on the stories you’re drawn to and the stories you want to tell?
Doris Yeung: I consider myself a person of the Asian diaspora. I grew up in many places—spent time in Hong Kong, and moved back to the US, and then did college in Beijing. After college—around 2001-I moved to the Netherlands. This is actually where they showed my first film, that I’d done in film school in LA.
We are all connected, especially people from the diaspora. What I like to show in my films is that bridging of cultural boundaries.
In Motherland, you explored “the dark side” of the American dream, and how immigrants deal with those instances and the connections that keep them moving forward. Taxi Stories also revolves around connection and identity and the barriers we tend to erect in ourselves. What have your films taught you about your own connections to people?
DY: Taxi Stories is [about]diaspora and migration and Indonesian domestic works and mothers…it speaks to [the people]going after the Asian dream. Migration isn’t just the American dream. People migrate to find their dreams.
I think my films are about connecting through different boundaries, [including]cultural boundaries. My films taught me to break those down. If we let ourselves be vulnerable for more, we learn more. The things we might never have imagined might happen. With Taxi Stories, I wanted to show an Asia that’s maybe more connected with each other.
What was the most surprising thing about filming Taxi Stories?
DY: That people connected to these stories when they read the script. That was nice. There was a hunger for this interconnected multicultural story, even though some of them couldn’t visualize it yet.
Also the kindness of the people who we worked with and encountered. This was an independent low-budget project, and people were inviting into their homes, fixing our car [when it broke down]and helping us push it on the road.
What are you working on next?
DY: I’m working on a film called Four Seasons, a collaborative project from Korea and Holland, about a Korean violin prodigy. When she gets older, she loses the passion for her music…partly because of her mother, who is kind of a Tiger Mom. She moves to Holland and joins this orchestra, where she meets an older woman cellist and they have an affair.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Taxi Stories premieres at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival from April 27 to May 4, 2017.