During the French colonial era, a young Northern Vietnamese woman must satisfy a French General’s taste for traditional cuisine in order to save her family from execution. À La Carte’s visual style aims to recreate the feeling of a traditional Vietnamese poem, featuring themes of calmness and Zen.
Hi Jay thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?
It’s been a tough year for sure. But with my family and friends by my side, the pandemic isn’t too hard to withstand.
Has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?
Not particularly about the pandemic, but this year gives me an opportunity to have a rest from busy life, to spend more time doing creative works, hence why I have more ideas for future films.
Congratulations on having À La Carte selected for this year's Raindance Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?
Raindance has always been my dream and goal for such a long time. It’s still feeling like a dream that I got in this year. It’s a bit sad my film wasn’t nominated for a prize, I’m very proud to be part of the Raindance Film Festival.
This will be your European Premiere, does that add any extra pressure on you?
Not pressure, but excitement. The thought of showing my film to a wider range of audience really makes me happy. It’s also one of the goals when I started the project, it’s to tell a part of my country's history to the world, as well as culture wise.
"Believe in yourself, never take anyone's word about whether or not you can make your film."
Can you tell me a little bit about À La Carte, what inspired your screenplay?
My grandmother was a young woman during French Colonial era. She told me many stories of suffering people, but always being brave when facing the french men. Also a funny story, when I went out eating Pho with my friends in LA, they asked where Pho comes from. It’s all started from there.
There is such a rich history and culture in Vietnam do you think as you continue your filmmaking journey that you will continue to be inspired to tell stories from your country?
Not only my country has a history of 4000 years, but we always have amazing artworks, literature and poetry. There are lots of great materials to work with yet so few have been told to the world. There is nothing that makes me happier than being able to tell the world about the beauty of Vietnam.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently on this film?
Of course, after I finished any projects, I always came up with lots of better ideas about how I could direct and tell the story better. But I think it’s better to love the film as it is and move onto the next one with experiences and lessons that I learned throughout the process.
Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
My father inspired me about many things in life, film is one of them. When I was a kid, he introduced me to Tarzan, which is still my favourite film now that I am a grown up. Later on, he taught me about how great is the Godfather, since then I knew I wanted to learn about filmmaking.
How does your theatre background influence your filmmaking?
Many young directors I have met know lots about technical stuff, about gadgets and filmmaking tools but lacking interest in the performance of actors. To me the most important job of a director is the performance, and the theatre background has given me skills to work with actors, to make blocking more believable and interesting.
Has your approach to your films changed since you started out?
The way I approach filmmaking always changes as I grow up, I am more matured everyday and it truly affects the way I think of film subjects, as well as the way I tell the story.
Should filmmakers continue to push their boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
Absolutely, if you want to be good filmmakers, you can play safe and make a watchable film. But if you want to be a great filmmaker, gotta take the risk and make a film beyond people’s imagination. Higher risk, higher reward.
Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Believe in yourself, never take anyone's word about whether or not you can make your film. To be focused and finish what we started, starting from the basics and we will be able to tell the story we loved.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from À La Carte?
I want people to fall in love with Vietnam films, for people to know about the bravery of the people, as well as to understand and take interest in researching more about Vietnam history.
And most importantly, to love the Vietnamese cuisine, haha.