Viet Film Fest stands as a steadfast platform, illuminating poignant narratives of marginalized communities. This tradition persists with the powerful film, Angels, a tale unfurling the emotional journey of a mother and her ten-year-old daughter, abruptly thrust apart by fate. In an intimate conversation, we delve into the creative process of director Lưu Huỳnh, exploring his artistic journey and wellspring of inspiration.
What inspired you to make Angels? Did you have any artistic influences (cinematic, literary, etc.) going into making the film?
I had the opportunity to read about a woman with cerebral palsy on the internet. She longs to get married and have children like a normal woman. And immediately I wanted to make this movie to share her desire. The film is not based on her life. Totally fictional.
This is your first film in black-and-white. Why did you decide to shoot in black-and-white as opposed to color? What challenges did you face while shooting in this format?
I’ve always loved black-and-white movies for a long time, but I haven’t found the right script to do it. Angels was the right script. For me, motherhood is not expressed through colors but must be in black and white. Because black and white is the purest color to express the love and the feeling [that] I want to express.
Can you explain how your worked with Đinh Y Nhung (as Đep) and Mai Cát Vi (as Bướm) to strengthen their performances on-screen? With Mai Cát Vi as your first child actor in such a prominent role, did you have to adjust your directorial habits when working with her?
Đinh Y Nhung is an outstanding actress. Obsessed with method acting. She trained for almost a year for Angels. She and I spent a week in a psychiatric hospital, observing mental patients and deciding our direction.
Mai Cát Vi is a promising young actress. Very smart. Although she only played a supporting role in the movie, she still devoted herself to the character she took on.
I let Đinh Y Nhung and Mai Cat Vi [get] to know each other for a week like mother and child before filming. I did not have to adjust my directorial habits much because all three of us got to know the characters so well.
What was your and production designer Trần Trung Lĩnh’s (2007’s The Rebel, 2013’s Little Teo) approach to the production design? Where were the scenes in the hospital set and how was that facility acquired for you to use in the film? What sort of coordination was required with the many extras you employed in the film (especially in the scenes featuring the hospital’s interior courtyard)?
Production designer Trần Trung Lĩnh and I photographed all the sets, props, and costumes and converted them to black-and-white. If the colors didn’t work, he and I changed the colors to match the black-and-white we had in mind.
I’ve always liked shooting in real locations. It feels alive, not artificial. All psychiatric patient clothing was provided by the hospital. To get the hospital setting as realistic as possible, I incorporated all the real characters, extras and real psychiatric patients together.
What do you wish for audiences to take away from your film?
I want the audience to remember “There is no sweeter gift than a mother’s love for her daughter.” It is the most sacred love!
(Interview by Eric Nong)
Angels will be preceded by the short film Oink at Viet Film Fest. It will be screened in-person at 3:30 PM on Saturday, October 7 at the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, California. The film will not be available for virtual screenings. Secure Your Tickets for Angels here.
ABOUT Lưu Huỳnh
Lưu Huỳnh is a Vietnam-born Vietnamese American film director. His 2007 film, The White Silk Dress (Áo lụa Hà Đông) won the Audience Award at the Busan International Film Festival, the Kodak Vision Award at the Fukuoka Asian Film Festival in Japan, and the highly coveted “Best Foreign Film” award at the Golden Rooster Awards. The White Silk Dress was officially selected to represent Vietnam at the 80th Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.