No other genre of cinema engages my heart, mind and body like action does. It’s the clench of muscles in the belly, the deep-seated desire to see justice in this world; the ugly, beautiful and complicated navigation
of morality and humanism.
Do No Harm explores the first corruption of a woman’s moral code.
It is the short film prequel to a feature film project, Black Lotus. The strand pulled under pressure in Do No Harm leads to a more dangerous unravelling of humanity in the larger story. Both are stylistic, sophisticated action films that beat with a conflicted heart of feminine savagery.
The film was inspired by my own complicated relationship with theoretical violence. Since motherhood, I’ve become more aware of my own murderous potential. I harbour dark thoughts, wonder about the lengths to which I would go to protect my children. My desire to make action films is a catharsis of these undignified, visceral emotions.
But it’s not all brooding grimness. Writing action is one thing. Making action is, I’ve discovered, gleeful. For me, filmmaking is about the joy/terror of synergistic collaborations with other people. I can’t be sure it was the promise of kick-assery that drew our world-class cast and crew, but I am sure we were never as happy as when we were playing with squibs, blood rigs and prosthetics. Roll on the cars and explosions, I say.
I aspire to tonal complexities in storytelling, and making a stylistic, emotionally-charged action film such as this one was challenging. I wanted action that was believable, brutal, but also enticingly cinematic. I wanted the logic of violence to be sound - violent people don’t do violent things because they are evil; they do them because they are practical. Actors Marsha Yuan and Jacob Tomuri were physically experienced practitioners, but we needed more time to find their particular emotional reality for this script. When they found it, magic happened.
This, I think, is why directing is such a buzz for me. I didn’t write some of the best lines. The passing glints of dark comedy in the film were not all planned. The unusual playfulness of the score appeared to fall into my lap, through the stylistic choices of the editor and the composer. Don’t get me wrong - I prepare and plan as much as the next director, but it’s the happy unintentionalities that make the whole thing sing. The result is every bit the intense, satisfying, specific tale of flawed humanity I hoped it would be.