So Long, Farewell

At first glance, Malaysian-born writer-director Yen Tan would seem to have little in common with his new film, Ciao, the story of grieving Texan Jeff (Adam Neal Smith), who learns that his late friend had an e-mail relationship with hunky Italian Andrea (Alessandro Calza). But Tan's art imitates life in unexpected ways.

BY Kyle Buchanan

December 10 2008 1:00 AM ET

At first,
Malaysian-born writer-director Yen Tan would seem to have
little in common with his new film, Ciao, the
story of grieving Texan Jeff (Adam Neal Smith), who learns
that his late friend had an e-mail relationship with
hunky Italian Andrea (script co-writer Alessandro
Calza). Still, Tan says the movie was autobiographical
in some surprising ways.

Advocate.com:Tell us a little bit about how the movie was
conceived. How did one of the leads, Alessandro Calza,
end up writing this with you?
Yen Tan: He saw my first film (Happy Birthday)
in Italy, so he wrote me an e-mail in 2003 and we just
started e-mailing from there. We had a really good
sort of platonic correspondence between us -- we talked a
lot about the arts and that kind of stuff and
communicated on that basis. This film came along and I
always thought he was kind of an interesting character
from what I knew of him at that point, because this was
before I had actually met him in person. Also, at this
point, he was telling me stories about people he met
online, long-distance relationships and so on. So I
think the combination of those things inspired me to create
that sort of character and also use some of his
experiences in the film.

The other main character in the film lives in
Texas, as you do. Did you mine a lot of your own
personal experience?
It's kind of funny, because when I talk to
Alessandro about it now, he doesn't think that much of
it is autobiographical, I think maybe in a sense
because we did twist some things around for them to work for
the plot. I think some of the anecdotes you hear in
the film are true -- they're things that happened to
us or that we've heard from friends who did online
dating. But I would say that the key part of the film that
has to do with mourning and loss and grief, those were
things that neither one of us have experienced
ourselves, but it's something that I'm personally
fascinated by.

Tags: film

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