Go Together is Director Haojon Meng’s moving documentary about a group of students who trek across the land to connect with regular people. While Meng is not an uber famous director in America, he is well known for his work in China which ranges from feature films to television series, MTV, and commercials. With awards that include two National TV Literature Starlight Award and a Best Director Award from the 8th Macau Film Festival, Haojon Meng is lauded for his ability to bring a deeply immersive experience to a wide range of audiences. In order to manifest this for Go Together, the director procured the immensely talented Albert Huang as the dialogue and re-recording mixer. The uncontrollable environment of filming documentaries often brings obstacles to a production such as this; Haojon’s vision demanded an exceptionally skilled sonic master such as Albert to achieve this.
Young people often find themselves on the receiving end of negativity in the public eye. Too much is made of their lack of experience and not enough credit given to their energy and enthusiasm to manifest positive change. Haojon Meng wanted Go Together to rebuke the notion of a superficial young generation but the obstacle impeding the stunning visuals captured for the story were not congruent with the production soundscape captured. Go Together follows five young students who hike to Tibet from Si Chuan, interacting with the colorful tapestry of people along this route and visiting famous locations. The quintet documents their experience with original paintings which they sell at the end of the film to purchase warm winter coats for the economically challenged children of a primary school they met on their trek. This journey was not easy to capture on film and even more difficult to record properly. Albert Huang was brought in to resurrect the sonic identity of the film as well as conjure an emotional state which reinforces the mood visible in these varied settings.
The audio presentation of a story is perhaps more layered than the visuals so obvious to an audience. The dialogue in Go Together occurs among numerous characters who are constantly on the move in shifting environments; far from a controlled setting. In multiple scenes, the students walk through busy tunnels and along highways with heavy traffic and honking horns. These contrast the serenity of moments when the group finds themselves deeply immersed in open nature without a hint of other humans. Albert describes his enthusiasm of working on this film noting, “One of the things I enjoy most about my work on a documentary is that it demands me to be a problem solver. I’ve worked on feature films which have their own challenges but a documentary like this doesn’t conform to what I’d like in terms of an ideal setting, it simply is what it is and I have to figure out how to get what the director needs. When the dialogue of the characters is happening in a very noisy environment like traffic, I’ll use a spectral repair function to clean some horn sounds from background noise and then cut all the car sounds which don’t overlap with the dialogue out of the dialogue tracks. To make these adjustments appear natural, I’ll then use an ambience match function to fill all the gaps of tracks. That why the dialogue in this film doesn’t sound over-processed and natural.” In filmmaking terms, one might consider Albert Huang’s work something akin to sonic plastic surgery, painstakingly creating an identity that appears as natural as possible. This is particularly present in the scenes of this film which take place in the serenity of nature, an environment profoundly established by Huang’s rerecording work which tunes out the human moments and highlights those of mother nature’s.
Go Together might not be so easily accessible to American audiences but it’s most certainly worth searching for. It’s the kind of film which reminds us that there are people in all parts of the world who want to connect with others and give back to those who could use some assistance. Albert Huang, Haojon Meng, and the entire production have offered this heartwarming film to the public to remind us that while so many illuminate the division that exists among us, there is a greater foundation to be built upon what connects us. Films like this can be part of a positive direction; telling the story in a remarkable way is a huge responsibility.
Writer: Coleman Haan