Tea time with Zoe and Hanh
Obvious question. How much of this film is autobiographical?
It’s not really autobiographical, but it was inspired by my upbringing and how I was never given the sex talk by my parents. I wanted to explore the ramifications of that through an aging mother and her grown up daughter, specifically through the lens (and subsequent culture clash) of being first generation Vietnamese American.
You’ve written, directed and starred in it. How was that experience? Going forward would you rather privilege one of these roles?
To do all three is hard, but great fun! And is especially ideal for when I’m telling such an intimate and personal story on a budget and in limited time. If I had to privilege one of these roles on a certain project, I would love to be able to focus on just acting or just directing in order to learn and practice the craft more (I recently finished an MFA in Screenwriting and Playwriting, so for now, I’m overloaded on the writing haha!)
What was your family’s reaction? What sorts of reactions have you had from audiences?
I actually have not shown this to my parents! They’re a little too conservative for this haha. My brothers have seen it and are supportive. I actually haven’t been able to watch it with an audience because of the pandemic, so I haven’t been able to observe an audience watching it. However, when I talk to people who have seen it, they tend to comment on the natural chemistry between Zoe and Andy, as well as the complexity in the relationship between Hanh and Zoe.
How much of your Vietnamese heritage would you say you’ve kept alive?
I was born in Texas, but my parents made sure that Vietnamese was my first language; in fact, I was not allowed to speak English at home growing up. And every Sunday, my parents took my brothers and I to Vietnamese school at the local temple. I would learn to read and write Viet, while also having my own Vietnamese community of friends. Eventually, when I got older, I also assistant-taught there. And every time there was a major Vietnamese holiday, my parents would take us to celebrate with our community at the temple or in Austin’s “Chinatown”, as well as having our own traditions at home. My parents made sure to keep our culture alive and wanted us to be proud to be Vietnamese.
What do you want to explore next as a filmmaker?
I’d like to explore making longer content. I’ve only directed shorts, but I’m excited to be working on my first feature and really being able to dive deeper into characters and building out a narrative.
What do you think the future holds for short films?
I hope the future (and audiences) holds more space for it, because it’s such a creative medium and a great training ground as a filmmaker. The shorts programs at festivals are always some of my favorite screenings and it’s always exciting to discover a new film or filmmaker that excites, inspires and challenges me.
If we were to go back into lockdown, what cultural delights would you recommend to alleviate our boredom?
Hm… I’ve been watching a lot of this YouTube channel called “Spain Revealed” (and living and traveling vicariously through them). I also encourage you to go watch season 1 of Space Force on Netflix, since I’m writing for season 2!