BUTTER LAMP - Oscar Nominated Short Film by Julien Féret and Wei Hu


"Butter Lamp" is an incredibly simple film. It consists of a variety of Tibetans being photographed in front of a variety of backgrounds that are obviously NOT in Tibet. You see families posing in front of such settings as tropical beaches and even Disneyland Hong Kong. And, in the end, when the cameraman and his assistant are leaving, you get a chance to see where the photos are being shot. During all this, the focus of the film camera is fixed--and never moves once. Technically speaking, it's a very simple film and there is nothing to the story other than seeing nomadic people being photographed. Oddly, I heard a few people in the audience laughing hard during this film but there's very little that's funny about this film. It does have some points to make about progress, society and, perhaps, about changes being forced on the Tibetans. But it also left me wondering why the film was nominated, as I keep waiting and waiting for SOMETHING exciting or innovative to occur...yet nothing seemed to happen.

When I went to see Butter Lamp I was intrigued from beginning to end. This film was clearly two creative visions merged together to motivate the audience to question themselves about the simplicity of traditional culture around the world. I could relate in many aspects with this beautiful short film written and directed by Wei Hu and produced by Julien Féret.

After watching the film there’s was a Q&A right after and I couldn’t resist but to ask Julien if he was ok to spend some time with me for an interview at the Palihouse Hotel over some coffee. He said yes... 

Here’s a little view in Julien Féret’s mind while producing this wonderful short film by Wei Hu...


Marilinda Where the title Butter Lamp come from? 

Julien Féret - Well in french Butter Lamp is La Lampe au Beurre de Yak, which is a small lamp at the monasteries that is lit to remember the lost souls to make their spirit live. Traditionally you bring some yak butter to keep the fire going to remember those.


How you both met and how you assemble this film and crew?

We met in Paris, he was studying film making in Paris and he already had the idea of this film, he had it already written. And we started working together to get the funds, which we got pretty quickly and so we went to Tibet to make the film. We wanted to shoot with a french DP. Hue wanted to use artistic technicians, so after getting the french DP and sound guy, the rest of the crew was chinese and the actors tibetan.


When it comes to bringing the film to different parts of the world, what is it that you look forward to besides a good feedback from the audience?

To show this film all around the world is always interesting because we make a film with the director as best as possible, but then it doesn’t belong to us, it belongs to the people that watch the film and have their own points of view and something to discuss. It belongs to them.


If you had to describe this film with one social issue, what would it be? And with one social highlight that could potentially inspire many around the world?

How do people place their traditions into their actual lives and the organization of the world. This is not a film that communicates “we are living without our traditions and that it’s bad”, that’s not the point. The point of the movie is to reflect on some kind of reality to show that yes, reality can in some kind of way disappear or maybe the other way to be more present into what people want to reflect. In the movie there’s old people who refuse to take their traditional jackets and there’s also young people who are pleased to take their traditional jackets off, but that doesn’t mean that young people don’t care about traditions and elders live with it.


After watching the film many times, is there anything you would like to add or take away if you had the chance?

No, I don’t think so. The time that we were making the movie we were only trying to make it possible with all the complex things that come with making a film; running out of time, not enough money, equipment and so on. You are in the present time making a movie, and when it’s done it’s done and I think you should not see the imperfections.



What was the first theater you showed Butter Lamp and how the audience responded? 

It was in Cannes festival. We finished the movie right on time. We think the movie was well received and we felt that it was working in some kind of way. The movie questioned people after seeing the movie, so they came up to us to ask questions and talk to us about it. So yes, it was great.


Do you think by being nominated for an Oscar this week, will create high expectations from yourself as a producer and Wei as a filmmaker?

Wei Hu is very informed in how the industry works and he’s very curious with all the films that make his mind question about traditions and culture. I think for him coming to France and learning film making was very important. Artistically he understood and wanted to go through that path to learn film making in France because of the representation of some films and authors that matter to him the most. He felt close to that way of making films. In some kind of way there’s some sort of energy to achieve his work. He has a great way to execute and follow this path. Being here today with the film is not pretentious, but at the moment Wei Huand I are trying to find a balance to accept it and also create a balance in creating. We believe in what we do and are very passionate about it. We are very proud of what’s happening with the film because it was really difficult get this film completed. A feature film is obviously the aim, the bigger vision for this film. Because we are nominated with the film that doesn’t make me more or less of a producer. I will sit at the same table and write and produce the same way. I’m curious to understand how this nomination will help me in the future. It really pushes me to be more exigente with my work. Also, makes me more confident and with age you get more involved in experiences, people and circumstances. When you are young you don’t let yourself go, so now I get to let it be naturally.




As artists, we need an outlet to create and balance our ideas and life style so they could be placed in the outer world, is filmmaking the only outlet for you?

I’m kind of a maniac when it comes to making films. I’ve been making film for a very long time. My parents were working in the industry so it’s in my blood. Today I’m very happy to be a producer, I was an actor before when I was younger, and was happy to learn that process. Today I’m producer, tomorrow I don’t know. 


Describe Butter Lamp in 2 words.

Provocatively Human.



Do you do any type of rituals before a day of filming?

Believing in small things and what can happen before filming it really builds a spiritual balance to help us go through filming.





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