Torronto International Film Festival 2019
Carol Nguyen: "I really wanted to change that this time around and challenge myself to actually create change in the making of it and actually do something to push the issue that is addressed in the film."
NO CRYING AT THE DINNER TABLE
World Premiere | Documentary | 16 minutes
Filmmaker Carol Nguyen interviews her own family to craft an emotionally complex and meticulously composed portrait of intergenerational trauma, grief, and secrets in this cathartic documentary about things left unsaid.
Hi Carol, thank you for talking to TNC, with you having your World Premiere of No Crying At The Dinner Table at TIFF are there any nerves ahead of the screening?
I am excited, but of course, there is also a touch of nervousness. Having such a personal film play in front of such a huge audience will be a very vulnerable moment for me and my family. I hope there is a positive reaction to the film.
What does it mean to be at TIFF 2019?
It's really crazy to be able to say that my film has been selected at TIFF. It makes it even more worthwhile considering my history with them. I started out as a volunteer with TIFF and have involved with them ever since, in their high school or student programs. It feels surreal that I'll be going back with a filmmaker's lanyard this time around, haha.
Tell me a little bit about No Crying At The Dinner Table, how did the film come about?
No Crying at the Dinner Table is an experimental-documentary about family, communication and the things left unsaid. In the film, I interview my own family, where they speak one camera about things that they had never told anyone before.
Did you have any apprehensions about interviewing your own family for this film?
Of course! Dealing with family and with a topic like this is extremely risky. You never know what's going to happen and how things are going to end. I had to do a lot of research and trust-building before filming to ensure that they felt comfortable on the day of the shoot. What helped was that my family was already comfortable working with a camera and film crew as they have helped me or have been featured in my previous films.
How have your family reacted to seeing the completed film?
They reacted very positively. My mom asked to watch it again immediately after seeing it for the first time. But honestly, I have no idea how they reacted while watching it. I had to step out of the room because I was too nervous and emotional, haha.
"I got introduced to filmmaking in high school and just fell in love with the craft ever since."
How did you manage to maintain your objectivity when you interviewed your family?
I made sure to allow them to speak their thoughts completely during the interview. I tried not to interrupt or impose my thoughts. Of course, I had questions to guide and shape the interviews, but I tried to let the discussion flow organically like it were just a conversation without the camera.
What was the hardest part of this process for you?
Phew. No spoilers, but there was one specific scene that was most difficult to shoot. You'll know what when you see it!
How different is No Crying At The Dinner Table compared to your previous shorts?
I would say that my previous docs are more reflective pieces with little interactions with characters/subjects in the film. I really wanted to change that this time around and challenge myself to actually create change in the making of it and actually do something to push the issue that is addressed in the film.
Looking back do you think there is anything you would have done differently on this film?
I think I would have been less harsh on myself in the last moments of the picture edit. Sometimes it's hard to see things as they are when you've been working on it for so long. As directors, it's easy to beat yourself up over the little things. This is definitely not the first time where I've had emotional struggles during the last edits. It's something I'm working on.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
Not at all! Ten years ago, I would have never guessed that I'd be in the film! I got introduced to filmmaking in high school and just fell in love with the craft ever since. If it weren't for that film program, I'd probably be pursuing something in the business right now.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut short?
Since I started filmmaking in high school, I'm not even sure what to consider my debut short, but I guess since my high school days, I am now more aware of what my style is and how to achieve that. I am more aware of the impact of technical decisions on the story itself. High school Carol was just trying to figure out how to turn a camera on, so I guess I got pretty far since then, haha.
How best would you describe No Crying At The Dinner Table?
A short and sweet summary, "A portrait of a family, their secrets, confessions and confrontation."But, the programmers at TIFF, who wrote my film summary nailed it on the head, "Filmmaker Carol Nguyen interviews her own family to craft an emotionally complex and meticulously composed portrait of intergenerational trauma, grief, and secrets in this cathartic documentary about things left unsaid."
Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmakers?
The hardest part is always starting. Don't wait for the perfect moment, for the perfect collaborator, for inspiration to spark... Just do it!
And finally, what do you think you as a filmmaker have taken away from making this film?
I think what has been enforced is that my favourite part of filmmaking is the relationships I build and develop along the way. This is why documentary filmmaking is so important to me.