Joanna Vasquez Arong director of the movie "NEO-LOUNGE"
Beijing, a city full of surprises and contrasts, many seek refuge in a modern bar, Neo Lounge, which is run by a chic couple from Shanghai. The film is the story of one year in the life of the Bulgarian jazz singer after the first gig during the SARS epidemic, and the one of the Italian businessman the parties of whom, in a luxurious villa, seem to never end. This documentary film has been proclaimed the best on the festivals in Manila and Brussels, while on the festival Asiaticafilmmediale in Rome, it has received a special award. About her work in this film, director

Joanna Vasquez Arong says:

- It wasn’t really a conscious decision to make a film about the rapid development in Beijing. When I first walked into Neo-Lounge and met all of these people and characters from all over the world drinking champagne, smoking cigars, it seemed so surreal to me. It was a different side of China I never really saw from films or media. Then, meeting all of these people who seemed to sort of start a new life or identity in China intrigued me. Initially, I thought it would be great to do a fiction film based on Neo-Lounge and everyone I was meeting there. Then I saw the expression of some visiting friends’ faces in December 2003 when I first took them to Neo-Lounge.

They too found it all surreal... and they convinced me to pick up a camera and just start shooting. And after a while, I realized that Beijing’s rapid development is in fact very much a part of everyone’s lives and motivation, and is therefore a central character to the film. I met my characters through the crowd that used to hang out at Neo-Lounge. I only started to really get to know them and get close to them during the SARS epidemic period (between March-mid June 2003). For those of us foreigners who were not expats and not sent by companies or embassies to live in Beijing, many of us chose to stay in Beijing. As strange as this sounds to those who did not live in Beijing at the time, this was one of the best times for us living in Beijing. There was absolutely no traffic, the air was clear, no queues...and no work nor school. So everyone just hung out and got to know everyone quite well.

Somehow there seemed to be a kind of solidarity that developed for those of us “left behind”. Only a handful of bars were actually open and the crowd that I met basically hung out at either Neo-Lounge or one other bar with a terrace. There is only one thing I regret- is not owning a camera during this time. The parties simply lasted until 7-8 in the morning...night after night. And these two bars were packed! It still seems a bit like a dream when I think of those days.-


Source : 36th FEST International Film Festival website