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California Dreaming - Lawrence Le Lam Shoots Story of Legendary Dad

BC filmmaker Lawrence Le Lam grew up with fascinating stories of his father in 1970s Taipei. Lami Lam, Lawrence's father, is the legendary "Blue Jet" radio host who used to broadcast western anti-war rock and roll banned by the regime.

Lawrence turned his take on the legend into the magnificent short The Blue Jet, a tale of teen rebellion, which recently won the BC Student Shortwork Award at the Whistler Film Festival and will play at the Vancouver Short Film Festival (VSFF).

Featuring music such as Revolution by The Beatles, Hair by The Cowsills and the iconic song California Dreaming by The Mamas & The Papas, the film follows a long-haired hippie DJ who broadcast banned rock songs, made bootleg vinyl records, held underground concerts, and avoided the secret youth police. The story is told from the point of view of a fan.

In real life, Lam sr. wanted to become a TV camera operator. He eventually came to Canada to study at SFU but diverted to working in the computer industry — and spent some time in legal battle with apple, but that's a story for another film.

Though Lawrence was born and raised in Canada, and doesn't remember his only trip to Taiwan as a small child, there are subtle links to his Taiwanese background in his life. For example, his phone number is a combination of 7s, 8s and 3s. 7 is his favourite number, he says, and he believes the 8s and 3s are lucky numbers in Chinese numerology. "I didn’t actually think much about my Taiwanese background in the past," says Lawrence, "but the film was a way for me to reconnect with my culture and history."

(Donald Heng as Ling, the fanboy)

Created as a diploma film for Emily Carr University, The Blue Jet is very much a family endeavour, with Lam Sr. providing tons of information about the era and brother Kevin Lam assisting with the budget for the 16-min short.

Lawrence first tried to tell the story from his dad's perspective, but something was not quite right. After a while, it struck him that his father often told the story from someone else's perspective and that's when he created the main character of the fan boy, Ling (Donald Heng), a young man who admires the Blue Jet (Howie Lai) and makes a personal sacrifice helping the Jet escape the authorities.

(Lawrence directs Howie Lai, the "Blue Jet")

The film was shot during eight days in February and March 2015 at locations such as the Neptoon record store on Vancouver's Main Street and Jim's Cafe in New Westminster. An uncle provided boxes of old Taiwanese records as props.

The dialogue in the film is in Mandarin and English - mainly because Lawrence targets a North-American audience, but also because the bulk of the Asian-Canadian cast needed dialect coaching for their Mandarin lines. Besides, speaking English was the cool thing to do in Taiwan in the '70s, Lawrence says.

Another cool feature Lawrence and his cinematographer Leonardo Harim came up with is using old Russian lenses on their Red Dragon camera in order to get that special '70s look.

You can check it all out at the VSFF opening night show on Friday, January 29th at 8 PM.

The Blue Jet Trailer from Lawrence Le Lam on Vimeo.

By Katja De Bock
Photos courtesy of Lawrence Le Lam

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