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Hot Docs 2024: Qs à la mode with… Yuqi Kang (7 Beats per Minute)

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In 7 Beats per Minute, director Yuqi Kang profiles free diver Jessea Yu, but finds the boundaries between filmmaker and subject begin to blur. We posed our Qs à la mode to Yuqi, and here’s what she shared!

 

If I had to describe my film using only three adjectives, they would be: Immersive, intimate, and reflective.

I decided to make this film because: The first time I watched a free diving video on YouTube, a small human figure drifting in the vast sea, I felt a surge of anticipation. The only question left in my mind was: how could someone do that? It was as if they were one with the sea. Upon learning about free diving, my immediate response was clear — I wanted to learn it myself. Understanding that documentary projects often take years to complete, I knew that when choosing my second feature, it had to be something truly meaningful to me. Free diving immediately came to mind. I made the decision to take lessons and become a free diver. Through the physical and mental experience of free diving, facing the depths with only myself to confront, it became evident to me that I wanted to tell the story of a diver who pushes beyond limitations, descending to the ocean floor to reveal its secrets. This is when I met Jessea. Our meeting felt destined, propelling us into a shared six-year journey together.

The thing that surprised me most about my film’s subject/topic was: When I first interviewed Jessea on camera about free diving, her response took me by surprise. She eloquently expressed that it was the human connection that propelled her to dive deeper. While free diving may appear to be a solitary sport on the surface, the true essence lies in the power of one’s mind when descending into the depths of the ocean. However, to achieve this feat, a deep sense of trust is essential with those waiting above the surface and the assurance that help will be available in case of any mishaps.

The toughest part of the shoot was: As time progressed, my role evolved from filming Jessea to also serving as her safety diver during high-stakes free-diving attempts. These intense and competitive situations, combined with the demanding nature of filmmaking, pushed me to my limits.

My favorite moment/scene/sequence in my film is: During the time of the 2020 lockdown, I had the opportunity to briefly visit Jessea at her home in Hawaii. With little experience in spearfishing, she took me out to the open sea. It was a truly special moment for me to witness Jessea dive down to the ocean floor, reaching depths of 15-20 meters and patiently waiting before taking her shot. There was a moment where I feared she had passed out, but just as I began to descend to check on her, she made her shot and caught the fish you saw in the film. Later, she cooked it, and it turned out to be incredibly delicious.

My most invaluable piece of doc-making equipment was/is: My Canon C300 camera.

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice I’d like to share with aspiringdocumentarians is: Documentary filmmaking is a unique form of storytelling, and the equipment used can sometimes become a burden. I think that always having the flexibility to drop constraints and work with minimal equipment is one of the most valuable tools in my filmmaking toolbox. It allows me to focus on the story and the emotions of the moment, rather than being weighed down by technical gear.

 

Want to check out Yuqi’s film, or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!

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