Interview with Danh Minh Dao, Filmmaker of Fresh Snow

1) The Vietnamese community in Norway is smaller than other communities in the Vietnamese diaspora, and Norway has been very ethnically homogenous until the past few decades. How did your experience growing up there shape your perspective as a filmmaker?

Being born and growing up in Norway did shape my perspective as a filmmaker. Most of the time my mind thinks in Norwegian. So I think there is a kind of mixed identity under my Asian skin: sometimes I can understand from a Vietnamese point of view, and sometimes I can understand as a Norwegian. As a filmmaker, this way of thinking makes me curious about myself and others who can relate to the same feeling.


2) Your film begins at the tail-end of a stressful journey for the main character and his wife. Why did you decide to start there and leave the couple’s back story to the audience’s imagination?

I think every audience member has their own perception of good and bad life. I hope and think that people can relate to the couple’s hope for a better life, and remember their own back story. Hopefully it makes them discuss the main character and his wife’s back story with each other, and with me.


3) The sense of isolation in the film is heightened by the visuals of snowy landscapes of rural Norway. Tell us what it was like to film in this environment.

It was snowing off and on in the same day. Every day was very cold and challenging. It was an experience for all of us, especially the limited daylight in wintertime, which came at 8-9am and slowly disappeared at 3pm. The air was freezing, so we could really imagine how the characters were feeling and what they were going through.


Everyone had to work as a team and focused on completing all the exterior scenes as fast as possible. When we went in for the interior scenes, everyone was celebrating. For the shot where the car is moving on the road and we see it from the angle on the top of a mountain, the crew had to climb the mountain covered with fresh snow. It is an easy shot on tripod, but tough in this environment. I love that shot because of the risk they took.

4) Who are some of your favorite filmmakers and how have they influenced your work?

One of my favorite filmmakers is Alejandro González Iñárritu. His film Babel (2006) is the film that made him one of my favorite directors. His way of storytelling, the way different stories and locations cut and meet each other in an unpredictable way, kept me curious about the characters. The locations are so beautiful in his films. When I saw The Revenant this year, I could feel who influenced me, although I wrote Fresh Snow two years ago and shot it over a year ago. I love the snowy landscape in The Revenant. It was everywhere.

5) In your artist statement, you tell us that “I want to tell the stories I grew up with.” What stories are you looking forward to telling in the future?

I have these stories in mind: One story is about the people who escaped from Vietnam to Norway in different ways. Another is about a hungry kid who wants to have a safe family with a father and a mother, but thinks that it is best for her and everybody that she stays alone. The third is about two small kids, a brother and sister, who spend their fun summer vacation on the fields of a farm, while other classmates are flying to the beach and sun.