True Characters

Translation By: 
英譯 english translation Tanja Wessels 中譯 Chinese translation wendi song
The Tricycle Thief, Maxim Bessmertny
Macau is a place of memories and inspiration for Maxim Bessmertny, the 25-year-old scriptwriter and director of The Tricycle Thief which premiered at This Is My City - The Creative Festival in November at Albergue SCM.
It’s about a “universal” life story, focusing on colourful characters and a plot that could take place anywhere in the world, explains the director. The film was made with a very small budget but a lot of determination, and was recently selected for the Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
Born in Vladisvostok, Maxim moved to Macau in 1993 at the age of five and has grown up here ever since.  He is the son of Konstantin Bessmertny, arguably one of the Macau’s most famous and recognizable painters.  
He enjoys composing music and has studied philosophy, and is currently completing a master’s degree in film at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in Singapore, while simultaneously working on a feature film, a short, an advertisement and a music video.  CLOSER snuck into his busy schedule to talk to him about his latest film.
Macau CLOSER: What is The Tricycle Thief about?
Maxim Bessmertny: It’s about a forgotten profession, a forgotten tradition. It’s about inequality, and how these characters - the rickshaw driver, the taxi driver, the tinsmiths - have to survive in a very corporate environment, and sometimes resort to sinful means to provide for their families, or to pay the rent. It’s a story about lowly characters who are human and inspirational, and for me all storytelling always starts with true characters, people who do things with their hands. Human beings are meant to produce things, they are not meant to create money; money is an imagined thing. These are characters that are interesting to watch in stories, and they are doing something, they are not just talking, because talking is boring to me.
Could the film be set anywhere in Asia, or is Macau specifically identified in the movie?
I never even think about Asian, Eurasian, European; for me it’s universal. Film, just like music, is a universal art. Do you listen to music or do you listen to American music, Italian music? If it’s good, it’s good, regardless of the continent or country. This film is really more about universal values, survival. In this case, vendettas, revenge, and blackmail; these are all things that we experience at some point in our lives.
Nonetheless, the film has been described as 100 percent Macau.  Do you agree?
I think it can be 100 percent Macau, because I am 100 percent Macau, or at least 98 percent Macau - I’ve spent most of my life here. Also, there are the different characters that appear in the film such as rich gamblers in casinos and the taxi and rickshaw drivers, and the ladies who see you at the Chinese medicine clinics. That could also be what they mean when they say that.
How important was it to you that the film was selected to be shown at the Toronto International Film Festival?
That was an honour. It was fantastic to be there and a great experience. It didn’t really hit me until I was there, how big this event was. You have Robert Downey Jr. and all these guys on the red carpet, and you are just a short filmmaker trying to meet people. But it’s great as there is a whole community of short filmmakers and this year there were 30 international short films for the first time ever, out of around 3,500 applicants. Having people congratulate me is great, but I don’t do this for attention. I just do it because I have to, because I don’t know what else I would be doing.
Where does music fit into your life at the moment?
I have never stopped playing. In high school I wanted to be a rock star. What I really enjoy is to create; writing songs for others, composing a song. I really hope to collaborate with more musicians; it’s the fun part of my life.
Do you think your father’s success as a painter has influenced the decisions you have made in life?
Absolutely. Maybe if I were 15 I would say I don’t, but of course I do. Art, music, you can’t be painting and playing classical music in the house and expect me to become a lawyer or an accountant. Like the director Jean Renoir; his father was the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and he was very inspired by his father’s painting and his discipline. 
But Jean’s drawings were really crap so he took to directing instead. So I at least hope to be disciplined in one of the many crafts of filmmaking since my drawing abilities are more cartoonish and less masterful.