Jayden Rathsam Hua - web
Behind the scenes of 'Sushi Noh' (2022)
Stories & Ideas

Wed 06 Mar 2024

Jayden Rathsam Hua and 'Sushi Noh' – New Voices in Australian Cinema

Australia Industry Short film
ACMI author icon


Your museum of screen culture

Weirdness, humour, colour and discomfort combine in Jayden Rathsam Hua's reality-bending new horror.

Jayden Rathsam Hua is a Chinese Australian writer/director focused on documentary and horror, with a Masters in Producing from AFTRS. His short film, Sushi Noh, has screened at over 30 international film festivals, winning Audience Choice and at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, and Best Screenplay at Flickerfest 2023.

About Sushi Noh: Consigned to the care of her lonely uncle, nine-year-old Ellie encounters a bizarre sushi-vomiting kitchen appliance, triggering an avalanche of vibrant nightmares that seep into reality.

ACMI: How did the idea for Sushi Noh come about?

Jayden Rathsam Hua: The concept for the film comes from how I remember my childhood nightmares. The things I found scary as a toddler didn't follow any kind of logic; they were neither dangerous nor menacing. In most cases, they just looked wrong – they had an uncanny, unspoken quality about them that made me feel deeply uncomfortable. For example, before I wrapped my head around different art styles, stylised portraits of people freaked me out because they looked different from how people were meant to look.

Sushi Noh is my way of capturing the feeling of being in a child's nightmare – where weirdness, humour, colour and discomfort melt together and bend reality through a kid's eyes. Though grotesque and unsettling, the appliance featured in the film is a commodity, after all, and marketed to be appealing to adults. The character of Uncle Donnie buys into its loud, gaudy charm, but Ellie, his young niece, intuits it as uncanny and unpleasant. It was important to me that whatever the child feared in the film, she would be alone in doing so and misunderstood by the adults around her.

A: Tell us more about your filmmaking journey with Sushi Noh.

JRH: I started making little music video parodies and sketches when I was in Year 9, and my interest in filmmaking was sustained throughout my undergraduate studies. As soon as I was out in the world, I enrolled at AFTRS to do a Masters in Producing, which opened the door to a concentrated two years of collaborations and on-set experience. Sushi Noh was my capstone project for the program. I was lucky to have a team of super talented fellow students across many departments on the film and an ensemble of wonderful volunteers who were keen to work on the project.

Since the film premiered in 2021 in London, it has screened at a bunch of international film festivals and I've been able to travel with it to the US, which paved the way for me to meet people who would go on to become my closest collaborators. Two of which are my producing partners, Hugo and Henry Koehne, with whom I co-founded a horror genre-focused independent production company, Cosmic Scream. We've spent the past year making shorts and developing more long-form content, which has been so rewarding.

Actor talking to Director Jayden Rathsam Hua– behind the scenes of Sushi Noh

Behind the scenes of Sushi Noh (2022)

A: Who or what inspires you as a filmmaker?

JRH: One of the things that makes me the most excited to be a filmmaker is the possibilities that can stem from playing with and breaking the rules of genre. I'm such a fan of genre-shifting and sliding – it's such a fun, creative zone to play in, and it keeps me on my toes as a member of the audience.

The other thing is simply the thrill of creating imagery, experiences people haven't encountered before. The most gratifying part of the job is coming up with concepts, mechanics and monsters that feel fresh and fun and then realising them with a team of talented collaborators. I don't see horror as its own sectioned-off genre. I think of it more like a great mixer in a cocktail: anything I'm interested in, whether it leans into sci-fi, action, or comedy, is more exciting to me when it's a little scary and gross. I think allowing ourselves to be silly is, ironically, the key to taking ourselves and others more seriously in a meaningful way. Filmmaking is a domain where that can take full flight.

A: What advice would you give to fellow emerging filmmakers?

JRH: One of the most helpful things a filmmaker can do is spend a good amount of time reflecting on their favourite media. It's easy to come up with a top 5 list of films, but taking a moment to dissect how your favourite movies, TV, books, music and games did something special for you can be really enlightening. The deeper we understand the art that inspires us, the broader and richer our frame of creative reference becomes. I think it makes for a great foundation for shaping a unique creative voice and a great way to ensure that what you're creating remains authentic and exciting to you.

Director Jayden Rathsam Hua and the crew – Behind the scenes of Sushi Noh

Behind the scenes of Sushi Noh (2022)

A: What are you watching or playing right now?

JRH: I'm halfway through True Detective Season 4 – man, the state of the bodies when they are found is so juicy. Next on my list is Shōgun on FX, which I'm very excited to check out. I've been playing Pacific Drive, which is a survival/crafting game centred around driving a crappy station wagon through zones in the Pacific North West beset by paranormal phenomena. Most of all, it involves tinkering with the car in a garage, which I've spent a shameful amount of time doing. I've also just started Pentiment, which is a side-scrolling narrative game about a murder mystery taking place in 16th-century Europe. The whole thing is designed with the aesthetic of medieval illuminated manuscripts, which is really fun and cool. In the film zone, The Holdovers warmed my heart, and The Zone of Interest cooled it right back down. I can't wait to see Dune: Part Two in the IMAX cinema – that worm deserves the biggest screen in the southern hemisphere.

Discover more new Australian voices in film

Join our newsletter

Get updates on the latest news, exhibitions, programs, special offers and more.