After spending the past three decades bringing other people's stories to life, Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bin's own story is now told in Let the Wind Carry Me, a documentary directed by Chiang Hsiu-chiung and Kwan Pun-leung.
"The reason I want to make a documentary for Lee is that I'd like to explore the meaning of cinematography after my 10 years in the film industry," says Kwan, 45. "Film is a product made up of the accumulation of time. When you watch a movie, it's like experiencing a journey, experiencing somebody else's life."
Let the Wind Carry Me is exactly that: Kwan and Chiang spent three years following Lee around the globe, capturing his life both on and off movie sets. Interweaving interviews with his collaborators and his family and footage from 18 films Lee has worked on, the filmmakers have put together an inspiring insight of Lee's career.
Kwan says Lee's work bears testament to how cinematography is more than just a mastery of techniques; it's how the cinematographer sees the world and guides viewers to explore what's around them.
"It's also about how he treasures natural light and trying to capture it and present it to the audience," says Kwan. "It reflects his love for our surroundings and his determination to preserve them."
Lee, who's known for his beard, joined the industry in 1977; he made his debut as director of photography in 1985 with Run Away. He has since made more than 50 films, including Sylvia Chiang Ai-chia's Tempting Heart (1999), Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love (2000), and Tran Anh Hung's Norwegian Wood (2010); he's also struck up a flourishing partnership with Hou Hsiao-hsien in Flowers of Shanghai (1998), Millennium Mambo (2001) and Three Times (2005).
In the documentary, Hou says he never stops giving Lee different challenges because, the director says, he is confident Lee "will make things happen".
"One of the things that impresses me most is his willingness to share with younger filmmakers," says Kwan, who first met Lee when he worked as Lee's second-unit cameraman on In the Mood for Love. "There are many techniques involved in filmmaking, and many veterans are not willing to share with others, fearing that they will copy them," Kwan says.
"But Lee himself had gone through that stage and decided he'd like to share with others. And in turn he doesn't cling to one single technique - he's an adventurer who's always looking for new ways to shoot his movies."
Let the Wind Carry Me also reveals another aspect of Lee, through interviews with his mother and his son.
Lee's sense of guilt at not being around for his family most of the time has taught him to treasure the rare moments he spends with his kin - a sentiment he expressed when he dedicated a Golden Horse Award to his mother. Lee is also shown bringing his mother to Norway, where he was presented with an award for his work.
Kwan says his film is not about a filmmaking technique or a person. "A lot concerning cinematography is mentioned in the documentary, but what we'd like to convey is the meaning of life and how one makes use of their time."
Let the Wind Carry Me is on limited release at the Broadway Cinematheque from Thursday