A Bread Factory director Patrick Wang: 'I told people these films were comedies because we couldn't find any hope'
- Katie Goh
- 20 February 2019
Filmmaker shines a light on community art centres
An economist and a filmmaker have more in common that you might think. 'Most people assume they're completely divorced from each other,' explains Patrick Wang, himself an American economist turned filmmaker. 'I like that, for both, you start from a place of asking a question.'
In his latest film(s), A Bread Factory, which is screened in two parts, Wang asks a lot of questions. The two two-hour films follow the story of a community theatre, once a bread factory, now an essential hub for the arts in the fictional small town of Checkford, New York. When a Chinese-owned, contemporary, performance artist duo, May Ray, appear on the scene to open a new arts space, the Bread Factory risk losing their funding to these avant-garde provocateurs.
The idea for A Bread Factory came when Wang was touring his last film, In the Family. 'I was invited to a lot of small theatres,' he explains over the phone from France. 'I got invited to a theatre in Hudson, New York, which was where we eventually shot A Bread Factory. It was a theatre that reminded me of when I first started in theatre: the community aspect, how welcome you are in a place like that, and how art is not a professional pursuit. It's just a part of people's lives.'
The decision to split A Bread Factory into two films was a natural one. 'Pretty early on I knew it was going to be more than one film,' explains Wang. 'I really like how [the two parts] counter each other. Part one is a classical form where we define the fight and we have a show down. Part two is a slippery thing, which, to me, feels more like contemporary living, where we're not quite sure what to do. Things are confusing and things slip away in the middle of the night. I think we need the two halves to contrast each other.'
This need for contrast is also at the essence of the films' central theme: traditional, local art versus modern, global art, a binary that A Bread Factory unravels. 'It's a false choice the film almost seems to set up – a showdown between two types of art. But personally that's not how I see it,' says Wang. 'These two types of art that seem segregated in the film, I think they would have a lot to say to each other. I think many kinds of art should survive because we don't know which is ultimately the truth or gets us closer to it.'
When I ask if he thinks we're destined to lose community art centres like the Bread Factory, Wang laughs. That's how he went into the project – 'I told people these films were comedies because we couldn't find any hope.' That soon changed. 'There's a picture here of how things you build can fall and decay quickly but somebody can also pick up the pieces quite beautifully and surprisingly. In a way you can't predict how it'll go at all.'
A Bread Factory – Part One: For the Sake of Gold, GFT, Sun 3 Mar, 1pm; A Bread Factory – Part Two: Walk with Me a While, GFT, Sun 3 Mar, 3.45pm.