When he’s not teaching the MA in Interpreting and Translating, Miguel Fialho works as a subtitle translator for Chinese feature and documentary films. Recently, he subtitled the award-winning Chinese film“Black Dog” (Gouzhen), which tells the story of an ex-prisoner bonding with a stray dog while clearing the town of strays before the Olympics.

Following this project, Miguel was hired to interpret for director Guan Hu at the Cannes Film Festival, the world's most prestigious film gathering.

What’s it like translating for a film director at the Cannes Film Festival?

Working for director Guan Hu was a joy but it was challenging because I was interpreting his ideas and the right words don’t always immediately come to mind. During one press interview, he described the film protagonist, Lang in the film as “wild” and possessing “henxing” (狠性), which I translated as “edgy.” There are many ways to interpret that word, and the perfect translation doesn’t always come to mind in the moment. But interpreters should always be flexible and find ways around tricky linguistic situations. While you can never be prepared for everything, good preparation can help you interpret as completely and accurately as possible. My top tip is to watch the director’s back catalogue and old interviews they’ve given to tune into the way they speak. Having a passion for film always helps.

Is Cannes all glamour?

Cannes is something else. The place is bursting with filmmakers, actors, and fans from all over the world, all eager to watch films and catch a glimpse of their favourite actors. It’s common to see actors and film crews strolling the streets, people dressed in the most outlandish and brightly coloured costumes, actors doing photo shoots in the middle of the road, and of course, all the pomp and circumstance of the red carpet. Cannes’ location on the Côte d’Azur adds to the glamour of the festival. Each night, there are yacht parties and street performances that go on late into the night. For those who just want to watch something light in the evenings, there is a free “Cinéma de la Plage” screening every evening on the beach.

Which celebrities have you spotted?

When you work as an interpreter, there isn’t much time for star spotting. Interpreters often work with famous people and might be less tempted to take a selfie with them. Having said that, I noticed Charles Dance and Cate Blanchett doing their photo shoots near our media interviews. I would have loved to have met them, but when you’re working, you have to focus on the task at hand.

I did have some encounters with the stars. The actress Léa Seydoux from “Blue is the Warmest Colour” came to one of our film parties, and I had a few chats with the actor Eddie Peng, who played Lang in our film, “Black Dog.” We also had dinner one night with famous Chinese director Jia Zhang-ke, who also had a film in the main category at the festival and played the role of the head of the dog patrol, Yao in “Black Dog”. One of the big stars of the festival was Xin, who played the role of the black dog in our film. She won the Palm Dog Grand Jury Prize this year.

What are your stand-out moments from the Cannes Film Festival?

Interpreting on a beach in Cannes was one of the most challenging interpreting experiences of my career. The wind was strong and the sound of the waves crashing against the beach was so loud that it was very difficult to hear what people were saying and hard for the director to hear my interpretation. But it was a beautiful setting for an interview with the yachts and bright blue sea in the background.

The most emotional moment for me was the premiere of “Black Dog” in the Debussy Theatre. Watching a film you’ve worked on at such a prestigious festival is immensely rewarding. As the end credits rolled, the audience gave the cast and crew a huge round of applause. Films and filmmakers are accorded a huge amount of respect. The film went on to win the Un Certain Regard category at the festival.