Europe Film Festival U.K. spoke exclusively with Tam Tran

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Hi, first of all, congratulations, you are one of the winners of the Europe Film Festival U.K. What do you feel?

Hello everyone! I am very excited about it. Many thanks to the organizers of this event. I feel really honored and humbled to be the winner in the category of the Best Feature Film.  My goal was to tell the stories of the women of South Vietnam during and after the war. They were lovers, wives, and mothers who were called upon to make tremendous sacrifices. It’s time for their voices to be heard. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this award to them.

What gave you the inspiration to write and direct this story?

This film was planned to be released by April 30, 2020, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the “Fall of Saigon”, but it was postponed due to the pandemic.

Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to the Communist forces of the North on April 30, 1975. The new regime was harsh and repressive: supporters of the former government were stripped of their homes and possessions, prevented from holding a job or pursuing an education. Civilian and military officials of the South Vietnamese government were sent to forced-labor camps, known as “re-education camps.”

The tense political situation, rapidly deteriorating living conditions and human rights violations triggered a vast wave of emigration. Many South Vietnamese decided to leave by boat because they saw no future for their children. Over 1 million people took to unseaworthy makeshift vessels, hoping to be rescued when they reached international waters. But first they had to face huge risks: drowning, hunger, dehydration, attacks by pirates, rape, and even murder.

To me, their stories must be shared to the next generations. Unless we learn from our mistakes in the past, we will suffer from great losses again in the future.

Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? Do you feel that being a creative person requires that you give back or tell a particular story or not do something else? Why or why not?

Films of any genre, from documentary to drama, can have dramatic impacts on real life. In that sense, filmmakers are responsible for the impact of their work on culture. The technological advances in filmmaking not only put a camera in everyone’s hands, but also allow the computer graphics, animations, and compositing to become so photorealistic. It is hard for the audience to distinguish what is real and what is digitally created. As modern technology allows filmmakers to influence the mindset of their audiences, they have a responsibility to their audience and society.

What were the challenges in shooting this movie?

There were many challenges in shooting this movie. These included freezing weather, a tight budget, and amateur actors/actresses. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic prolonged the post-production process significantly.

Does your movie/life convey to the audience and message?

A REALM OF RETURN is a film about the tragedies of Vietnamese women, who carry psychological wounds that have never healed after the Vietnam war – a war caused by the communist ideology that always wants to rule the world. The film portrays the life of Thu, a Vietnamese-Canadian woman who suffered for more than 20 years after being raped, losing her child and lover on her journey seeking freedom. This film commemorates the sacrifice of the 1st generation of Boat People. Those losses must not be forgotten.