Magazine article Filmmaker

Johnny Ma

Magazine article Filmmaker

Johnny Ma

Article excerpt

"I didn't want to make a poverty porn," says Shanghai-born, Vancouver-residing filmmaker Johnny Ma about his first feature, Old Stone, released this fall by Zeitgeist. "I felt if I can't bring myself to really understand what it is like to live in this town and environment, then I don't deserve to make this film."

That extra degree of empathy and social insight was especially needed for Old Stone, which thrusts viewers into a contemporary China where motorists are faced with a stunning dilemma. Drivers who strike pedestrians are forced to shoulder these pedestrians' related lifetime medical expenses. If the pedestrian is killed, however, the driver gets off with a one-time fee to the family. This legal iniquity has actually led to a rash of accidents where drivers back up over the injured party, killing him or her to avoid the greater financial loss.

Old Stone follows taxi driver Lao Shi in the wake of such an accident where, rather than kill the victim, he takes him to a hospital, a kind act that exposes himself and his family to unimaginable repercussions. Writes Ma in his director's statement, "The Old Stone story is my way of expressing what I had felt for a long time that, in our society, it is harder and harder for people to do good deeds. …

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