Toronto International Film Festival 2020
Short Cuts
Tiffany Hsiung

Sing Me A Lullaby

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Captured over 14 years across two continents. Sing Me a Lullaby is a story about a daughter's search for her mother's birth parents and the complex tensions between love and sacrifice.

Hi Tiffany thank you for talking to TNC, has this time offered you any new creative inspiration?

Time has been a gift, to both my process with Sing Me a Lullaby and my next steps forward. I am excited to be working on my new film UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE a short doc on a Toronto top chef that tries to keep his passion for cooking alive during COVID-19 lockdown even if it means teaching a group of culinary misfits online.  

Sing Me A Lullaby will have its World Premiere at this yearsTIFF Short Cuts, how does it feel to have your film a part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

I was born and raised in Toronto, so it has definitely been a dream to premiere this film at TIFF and to be included amongst a reduced selection of 36 incredible stories is an honour. 

Despite the festival looking very different this year and the ability to physically connect with other festival goers and filmmakers are limited, the pandemic has reminded us of the importance of appreciating every moment and opportunity we have to share and connect. 

Can you tell me a little bit about Sing Me A Lullaby, how did this documentary come about? 

Long before I could even see the top of a mah-jong table, I could read a room like a pro poker player. I noticed everything, even when the adults didn’t seem to. I recognized my mother’s quiet, withdrawn demeanor as part of her searched for something that was missing. I’d especially notice this during our bedtime stories, and whenever she sang us lullabies. Witnessing my mother’s yearning would be the catalyst for my mission in the summer of 2005. Unanswered questions hung over our family and I refused to let them haunt us. That would be the beginning of Sing Me a Lullaby and my search for my mother’s childhood. 

You worked on Sing Me A Lullaby for 15 years, does that make it harder to hand over to audiences?

It's been a long time waiting and I am just happy that I had the time to grow throughout the years to finally arrive at the story we have today. I am excited to hand this story over to an audience and for it to have a life of it’s own and hopefully spark new journeys for others.

"I would drown myself in alternate realities and escape in stories that transported me to places that felt full of possibilities." 

Did you have any apprehensions about telling such a personal story?
Absolutely! I had stopped and started several times making this film. Because it got too personal and I definitely thought I had something wrong by unearthing the past and bringing up memories that have been buried. But as a director you can’t look away when things get hard, in fact you are expected to delve deeper. 

What would you say have been some of the biggest things you discovered about yourself during the making of Sing Me A Lullaby?
I discovered how similar I am to my mother and how interconnected I am to her and the many generations of women that have come before me. This discovery was one of the reasons that allowed me to finish the film.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?
My passion for filmmaking stems from growing up and finding safety and serenity in the stories and imagination that films took me. Having parents that worked constantly, I was raised 50% by tv shows and movies. I would drown myself in alternate realities and escape in stories that transported me to places that felt full of possibilities. 

Would you say your style and approach to your films projects has changed much since your debut?

I think I am constantly learning and growing and if I ever stop I don’t know if I would still be a filmmaker, part of my love for storytelling is growing with each film I make. I think my style has and will always be guided by the strength of the human spirit. So I don’t know if it has necessarily changed since my debut… 

Do you think more filmmakers should push the boundaries of what they are creating and what they want their films to say?
I think there is a lot of pressure already in the film industry to be more of something or someone else, so I feel that filmmakers should create a strong foundation and intention behind the work they want to create before trying to push boundaries. Because like a house built on sand it doesn’t matter how big and grand the house will be if the foundation is not strong the house will easily crumble with a gust of wind. 

Is there any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

Trust in the process and know that every mistake is a stepping stone to get you closer to your dreams, closer to that story you want to tell , the film you are going to make. Welcome mistakes as lessons versus failure so that you do knock yourself out before you try again. 
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Sing Me A lullaby?

In a time where we are revisiting the very foundations of our human existence, my hope is that ‘Sing Me a Lullaby’ sparks a curiosity for viewers to connect with their own lineage. To see ourselves as part of a longer story arc,  to know that we were part of something bigger, and to find lessons in the lives that have come before us.