Trans film director Claire Zhou brings a recently divorced man’s story to light in her short film HIGH TIDE. Here she talks us through her inspiration for the short along with her thoughts on representation for gay men in Morocco.
How did you get into directing?
CLAIRE: I studied filmmaking at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. I was always a fan of storytelling and dreamed of becoming a filmmaker at a young age. Art school was one of many steps in my journey of becoming a filmmaker.
Where did the concept of the story of High Tide come from?
CLAIRE: I spoke to the organiser of the Moroccan Gay Pride boat during Gay Pride in Amsterdam. Shocked I was to hear that many gay Moroccan men were over 40, married and had children. He told me it was a common thing for those men to live a lie during the day and once a month would have sex with a man in a dark room. Something like that in the society of today shouldn’t have to happen, so I decided to make a short film about a gay Moroccan man making the step to self acceptance and being openly whom he is on the inside. As a trans woman myself, having experienced the whole ‘being attracted to men but not being able to express it’ as well, I could very much relate to the story. Authenticity is very important to me when telling a story.
Did you come across any obstacles during the making of the film?
CLAIRE: One of the biggest challenges of making the film was having two straight actors who were quite new to the whole gay thing. Me and actors had many talks about what it meant to be attracted to another person and that attraction, same sex or not, is a very human thing. In the end me and the actors decided to just go for it and in the first take we shot the most powerful scene of the film! I feel the whole newness of the subject actually enhanced the actor’s performances, as the main actor and his role both experienced being kissed by a man for the first time. The process of making the film opened the eyes of the actors, myself and the crew to how human it actually is to just love another human.
What was the best part of the experience of making this film?
CLAIRE: Definitely camping out at the cottage in the Veluwe with the cast and crew during the shoot. It felt like a warm and cuddly filmmaking family!
What do you want the audience to take away from your film?
CLAIRE: I would like my audience to know that it’s okay to be who you are and to love who you love. Being different is being human and it’s definitely okay to be human!
Only 4% of the highest grossing films in the past decade were directed by women, being a female director can be disheartening in this environment. What would your advice be for aspiring female directors out there?
CLAIRE: I would tell them, and myself, to not give a damn! The best stories will be the most successful and the film industry is slowly seeing that women can definitely tell amazing stories. Definitely don't be disheartened: rather, let us become the women to set this standard to 50%!
What’s next for you?
CLAIRE: Right now I’m working on my next short film, which is about the unheard abused male. Having lived at the other side of the gender border, I see that there is also inequality for men. Who could have thought it! As someone who needs to tell the stories of the unheard, this is my next project as an author.
Beyond that, I’m developing a few binge worthy series and looking for other cool projects that I could write and/or direct! Who knows, maybe here in the UK, since The Netherlands is literally an hour flight away.
Interview by Sophie Duncan & Caris Rianne
High Tide will be showing in the THE TIME IS NOW shorts collection on Sat 23 March. For tickets and information please visit here. You can view the trailer below along with links to the film makers social media platforms.