Writer/director Lo Lam believes that every person has the potential for greatness or can become sedentary in their existence. For Lam, making films provides an opportunity for great storytelling and just as importantly, for inspiring the audiences who view her work. They say “write what you know”; for Lo Lam this means the Chinese female experience but she has found that there is a common thread which resonates loudly in America as well as many other cultures. Her evolution as one of the prominent young female voices in the film community continues to illuminate an experience that has become much sought after in recent times. Great art is the convergence of conflict and the release that so often comes by means of a clear and authentic voice; Lo Lam is the ideal filmmaker for this moment in time.
Who Lives My Life? may be a film that focuses on one woman’s experience but it speaks to all women, even all people. It’s a parable for taking control of one’s own future. Abigail Marlowe (of the Oscar Award Winning film Vice, Oscar Nominated film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Golden Globe Winning TV series Brooklyn Nine Nine) stars as Belle, a housewife who is quietly upset when her husband yet again dismisses their plans for a vacation. While her husband travels often for business, Belle feels that the world she longs to see is passing her by. When an injured and handsome stranger appears on her doorstep, he offers the type of provocation that may redirect Belle’s relationship and her dreams. There’s a significant twist to this film that is impossible to predict.
Lam pulled inspiration to write and direct Who Lives My Life? from her female friends living in Hong Kong. She notes that their stories of unfulfillment are mirrored by many in the United States as well. She created the film as a call-to-action for anyone anywhere who has slept too long through a life commandeered by someone else. There’s a minimalist tone to the film that allows a cultivation of the satire and dry humor of the story. Lo Lam worked closely with DP Alan Niku to create a complementary visual style of unconventional shots to acquire a sense of absurdity. Extreme POV close-ups, door knob reflections, and other unique focal points establishes the dream-like quality of the story and Belle’s uncertain state of mind. Among the recognitions Who Lives My Life? has received are the award for Best Drama at the 15 Minutes of Fame Film Festival and the Award of Excellence at the Headline International Film Festival.
Lo Lam’s most recent project is I’m a Doctor, a comedy/drama that depicts the female immigrant challenges in present day. The undertone here is the question of how much a person is willing to sacrifice to achieve their dream. The story abundantly presents the dark comedy and moral deflection that any one of us might be capable of in extreme circumstances. When international medical student Momo hits a pedestrian [Natalie] on the way home from her graduation party, the potential penalties are magnified by the fact that she is drunk. Rather than calling for an ambulance, Momo kidnaps Natalie and treats the injuries herself; hoping to convince her to abandon any thoughts of retribution. Momo’s lingering landlord is a constant threat to the discovery of Momo’s captive; one which she decides to deal with by final and decisive means.
In Momo, Lo Lam has created a character of great depth and irony. This central character, played by Constance Parng (of the triple Oscar Award Winning film Black Panther and Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp starring Paul Rudd) is mesmerizing to watch. Lo Lam took great pains to show the duplicity of Momo in direction of the acting performance and the drastically different color temperatures that relate which side of herself is present to meet her needs.
While Momo may be leaning to the hyperbolic sense of desperation, Lo Lam is adamant that her films are a way to communicate the defining scenarios that many women find themselves within. She relates, “I’m dedicated to bringing different cultures to the world, because I feel like a lot of pain comes from misunderstanding. In my opinion, telling stories is the best way to create empathy and provide alternative perspectives; which is the most efficient way to bring the courage to change and ultimately resolve conflict. It is also a mission for me as a writer/director to want to achieve and carry on for life. My self-awareness as a woman was awakened only after I moved to the US. Although Hong Kong is a prosperous and developed city, I had never had discussions with other girl friends about what it means to be a woman, how we are treated differently, what we could do to fight for equality… before I came to the US. It was like I have been shortsighted my whole life, unaware until I wore prescription glasses and saw the truth. This is such an important self-awakening experience to me and I wish to dedicate my life to express this through my movies. Of course, this is not limited to only the consideration of the female experience. My DP for I’m a Doctor was Merawi Gerima. On top of his cinematic skills, Merawi is a very genuine, diligent and open person. He explained to me what he thought the core of Momo’s struggle was after first reading the script and he really understood it. As an African American social advocate, he has discussed with me so many times how hard but also important it is to verbalize our feelings and stance in the public, with an unapologetic and uncompromised attitude as someone who’s in an underrepresented group.”
Writer: Angela Cooper