The 405 caught up with filmmaker Qiu Yang to talk influences, filmmaking, and his Palme d'Or winning short, also under consideration for the Academy Awards, A Gentle Night – Qiu was born in Changzhou, China and studied directing at Victorian College of the Arts in Australia, he is the first ever Chinese director to win the much coveted Palme d'Or.

A Gentle Night tells the story of Cai (Li Shuxian) who refuses to go gentle into that good night after her daughter goes missing. It is a very emotional short that is based upon a true story – well-executed, shot, and directed, with a superb first film performance from Shuxian, herself trained and experienced in opera. I highly recommend catching it, and enjoying the trailer below my interview with Qiu here.

We welcome Qiu to The 405 to talk about his influences, A Gentle Night, filmmaking, and a lot more.

I wanted to start off by inquiring a bit about your history. What was it that got you into filmmaking? What do you believe makes a great film?

The way I got into filmmaking was quite random. I was trained to paint from very young age; it's a family tradition from my father's side. I was always attracted to the more art and cultural side of things, like literature, painting, music etc. And I was never interested in the academic side of things. So after high school, I had a chance to go overseas, I just randomly picked filmmaking, because I didn't want to pursue a professional education in painting and I liked watching films, so I made that decision, without knowing what I was getting myself into.

I do believe honesty makes a great film, maybe not necessary popular films, but great films. You have to be honest and true to make anything that might reveal the true humanity and vulnerability of us.

Favorite directors? Favorite films? Who and which have influenced you most?

Some many of them! Robert Bresson might be the biggest influence on my filmmaking methodology. Tarkovsky inspired me athletically immensely – also my favourite Chinese language filmmaker Edward Yang. I don't really have favourite films, I am a believer in the Auteur Theory. So I love everything these filmmakers made.

What have been your greatest challenges as a filmmaker? Greatest triumphs?

I guess is how to stay true and honest with yourself. I think the film industry is a place with so much temptation, it's a place, just like our society, that wants you to become everybody else. And you could easily lose yourself in it. These temptations would always be there, every day, everywhere. How to constantly remind yourself to be true and honest to what you want to do and what you are doing, to me, might be the hardest thing. As for greatest triumph, I guess it's still yet to come. [Laughs]

 A Gentle Night is quite the emotional short. Especially at the end. I was wondering if you could elaborate on the true story that it is based on. Were there other inspirations?

It was inspired by a few very short news stories from my local newspaper. The first one I noticed was saying that in a small community in my hometown, a few children went missing together and that was it. Then a few weeks later, a new report said that a few more kids went missing and no news came back for any of them. Then a few months later, a report saying all of them suddenly came back, with no explanation whatsoever and that was the end of the report. I was really fascinated by it, not by what's reported, but by what hasn't been reported, what happened? Why did it happen? And what did people do? And this story kept coming back to me and when I was ready to make a new film, that's the story I decided to make.

 Li Shuxian was tremendous as Cai. This is her acting debut. How was it to work with someone who has an operatic pedigree? I'm wondering how that shaped her performance.

It was amazing to work with her. Even though she never acted in front of the camera before, I think her opera stage experience made her unafraid of the camera. She has the ability to be natural in front of the camera, which is a super important element when working with non-professionals. I think she was so good, I didn't really have to do much, she always gets what I say and was able to make subtle changes easily. Most of the time, all I had had to do is just try to bring her energy down – understandably for an opera singer – which wasn't hard.

Where and when can our readers look for A Gentle Night?

At the moment only film festivals, you could follow the films facebook page, where you can find out all the latest information regarding the film – if we secure a UK distributor, we will absolutely share it there!

Last, what is next for you?

I am finishing the script for my first feature film and hopefully, I could start shooting it sometime next year.