Conducted by Dee, Vee, Katlin, Cycy. Photo courtesy of Regenerating Champa.
There are a lot of interesting motions in the film, what is the most difficult part of making it? and how did you come up with the idea of using stop motion and dose it mean anything special? The most difficult part of making the film is using stop motion throughout almost 1/3rd of the film. Stop-motion animation is very time-consuming yet needs to be very precise and the film was mainly a two-person production for the animation portion. I used stop motion animation for two main reasons. First, since the story is based on my parents’ escape from Southeast Asia and a tight budget, there was no way to film in Asia itself. In light of that, the second reason was that I grew up hearing stories from my parents about our homeland and their escape from their countries involving serious themes like war and genocide, and as a child, it was hard for me to imagine what that experience looked like. So stop motion animation was a way for me to bring their journey/experience to life from a child’s perspective.
The baby unicorn comes in the film. What kind of concept are you telling through it? What is your understanding of birth? Birth in general, and especially in the case, that inspired this film, is such a pivotal moment in so many families’ lives. In this case, a baby being born in the worse of circumstances coming out of war where the Prince/Idris and wife and their communities have lost so much represents the hope of a new generation – the literal name of the main character.
During the film, when the lights out, it said the prince and the princess are hind from the evil. Do you think that hide from the negative is one way for people to escape from the bad? The Prince and Princess had to escape many dark forces/evil – and in so many societies, evil is represented through the dark. For the Cham people, as an oppressed indigenous minority, hiding and escape were one of the only ways to survive – to be as undetected by the oppressors and to cross borders.
A lot of people from Asia like to change their names to American-sounding names, what do you think of that? What do you think people should respect about their original identity and how? For me, growing up, I did get made fun of for my name and I did wish I had a “normal” American name. And I didn’t learn to appreciate my name until I was much older, when I finally learned of the history of my family and how I even got my name. And how I was lucky to even have been born at all. But when you’re a kid, you’re not thinking of all those complexities, you’re just trying to fit in.
Growing up, how did you learn about Cham stories and communities?
I learned about Cham history and the community mainly through my parents and family friends. I grew up in the 80s – well before the birth of the Internet, so I never read anything about Cham people growing up let alone seeing us on TV or other forms of representation. Fast forward to high school, which is when I ever read a book about the Cham people, sadly, it was Ben Kiernan’s book, on the Khmer Rouge and genocide of the ethnic minorities, like the Cham.
What are the most pressing issues facing Cham people in the diaspora today?
There are various issues facing the Cham diaspora today – and much of that, depends on the location of that community. In Vietnam and Cambodia, it’s a literal struggle to survive given how impoverished the community is in general. In Cambodia in particular, it was especially challenging after the genocide when some Cham villages lost 80% of their people so it was a literal struggle to survive not to mention all of the issues that survivors must face having lost so many family members. My mom lost 67 relatives during that period. Also, the Vietnamese government is planning to build two nuclear power plants very close to Cham villages so that could have catastrophic effects for the community there. Here in the United States, many Cham people, as a refugee group, do not have a lot of resources. Especially, my generation, our parents survived war/genocide so there’s a lot of PTSD in our families and also intergenerational trauma that it is inherited – all the while, our parents struggled to keep food on the table in a new country far away from their homeland.
Written by Ben, Hannah, Shar and Millie.
12 November 2015
There was an interest in the film, the work seemed heartfelt with a decent low-key cast. This is the first film by Le that any of us have encountered and, it was great to see the film made it to festivals such as Frameline. The film opens with Bob (Jonathan Lisecki) the main character trying to buy a house. He meets with a vivacious african american woman that seems too fall into a few too many stereotypes. She is showing Bob the house but seems to continue to question the fact that he has no partner. Next, which really takes this scene to the next level is the gay couple that comes into the house to greet the possible new buyer, Bob. They fall into a an even more typical stereotype of the catty middle aged queen, who has a baby with their more balanced but still bitchy partner. The couple scrutinizes Bob for moving in and being single. This constant over tone of the fact that Bob has to have a partner is the constant theme of the entire movie. Even when he does finally meet Andy (Nicholas Brendon) a man that cares about him and likes his appearance. Still Bob cannot get over his self-esteem about himself. A constant dramatic presence within the plot. He cannot accept himself and therefore cannot accept Andy's love. Bob also has two very cookie cutter West Hollywood friends, Aiden and Chase. They are muscly one is white and one is asian. They act very sassy, but also supportive, and are Bob’s “best friends”. There is no clear connection that Aiden and Chase hang out with Bob. There is little they have in common with one another. Also, the addition of Bob’s mother is a complete waste. She adds nothing to the film, and it seems like it would have been better had Le just left the character out all together.
The unfortunate overall look at the entire movie is that the LGBT community is still making and watching films that puts gay men into a very segregated population. Even more so to make Bob a vietnamese “screaming queen” enforces the same ideals that Anacleto had in Reflection in a Golden Eye. Not only is the race being put down but also the sexual preferences. Bob is the most self-obsessed person in the film, the film seems to be trying to break the self obsessed image, Bob's character damages this. There are multiple times within the film when Bob says no one taught him how to be in “gay love”. This enforces the difference between the communities of gay and straight. Why does there have to be a difference. Love is love isn't it?
A Daughter's Debt won in BEIJING - For the "Outstanding International Film Award" !!! A huge CONGRATULATIONS to the production team.
In picture: Director Chao Thao at the award show! — at Beijing Film Academy.
Click on this link to listen to the interview with Phong of Finding Phong (Sun, Nov 22 @ 7:05pm) and the film's co-directors, Swann Dubus & Tran Phuong Thao.
Reyna Cowan from KPFA Radio’s Reel to Reel - June 24, 2015.
If you want to learn more about the film and to buy the ticket, please go here.