For many people, the name Cathy Yan automatically brings to mind “Birds of Prey.” That makes sense, considering for years, that is the only film that the young filmmaker has released. But you see, “Birds of Prey” isn’t her first film. No, that distinction belongs to the Sundance award-winning satire, “Dead Pigs,” which is finally getting distributed three years after its festival debut, courtesy of MUBI. And the filmmaker is happy to finally discuss her true directorial debut on this week’s episode of The Playlist Podcast.
As you can probably gather from the title, “Dead Pigs” follows the story of 16,000 dead pigs that are found floating in a river in Shanghai, China. Yes, this film is inspired by the real event that happened almost a decade ago, but outside of the pigs in the river, Cathy Yan’s film is something completely different. Blending drama, comedy, satire, and karaoke (yes, you read that right), “Dead Pigs” takes a look at how a group of seemingly disparate people come together and interconnect.
And if you read that premise and thought, “Wow, that’s a hell of an ambitious debut film,” then you’re not wrong. In fact, in our interview, Yan explained why she decided to go with “Dead Pigs” for her debut, versus what most people might assume an NYU film school graduate might do.
“I came out of NYU and I feel like there’s been enough done on the sort of existential crises of twenty-something-year-olds in Brooklyn, as well, right?” she explained. “It felt like to me, this was a project that I was deeply interested in and was a huge topic at that. And I think our world is only becoming more inter-connected and I think we’ve seen first-hand how a crazy incident in China can deeply affect our lives here. As a citizen of the world, and bouncing between the two [countries]…this felt like a story I could tell and a story I wanted to tell and one that is relatively unique to my voice.”
Now, thanks to the folks at MUBI, three years after its Sundance premiere, people are finally going to be able to watch “Dead Pigs.” And for Yan, this is a really exciting time, as her official directorial debut is actually getting a major release.
“So exciting! Very exciting!” said Yan. “I think when it was first at Sundance [in 2018], it was a slightly different set of circumstances. There weren’t that many distributors that want to take that kind of risk or know what to do with this film because it does cross a lot of different genres and tones. It was difficult to find a distributor that really wanted to take that chance.”
You can hear our full interview with Cathy Yan, where she talks more about “Dead Pigs,” her experiences during “Birds of Prey,” and how she is taking her journalism background and using it to influence her future projects below:
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