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.