Phung Hoa Hoai Linh was born in 1999 and has been starring in Vietnamese feature films since she was four. At age 12 she won Best Actress at the Eighth Dubai International Film Festival for her outstanding role in Tam Hon Me (Mother's Soul), directed by Pham Nhue Giang. Linh talks with Nguyen Minh
Inner Sanctum: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be honoured at the Dubai International Film Festival?
I was very happy because I never thought that I would win an international film award. Even the Golden Lotus Award, the highest award in Viet Nam's film industry, is impossible for me to even dream of. When director Pham Nhue Giang called on the phone from abroad to inform my parents, I was in my study room. The next day, all my classmates congratulated me and gave me a huge round of applause.
Inner Sanctum: How did you relate to your character Thu in Mother's Soul when you first read the script?
A couple of years ago when I was filming Leu Chong (Attending Mandarin Examinations) with director Nguyen Thanh Van, Giang stopped by the set in search of an actress to play the lead in Mother's Soul. She saw me in action and asked if I wanted to star in her movie. The first time I read the script, I did not know what to do or how to play the character. I reread it over and over again and rehearsed the role with Giang who helped me get into the complicated character. My dad also helped a lot.
Inner Sanctum: You spent two months in the film studio when you should have been at school. How did you deal with that?
To tell the truth, my studies were just one of the many challenges I faced during filming. Another of Giang's students helped me with schoolwork so I could focus more on my acting skills. To me, the most challenging parts of the movie were the scenes we shot outside and underwater. It was the middle of winter and I thought I was going to freeze to death!
I was surprised at the end result, because I didn't think the girl on the screen was me. She was very naive, but my classmates say they think I'm more mature, and I agree.
Inner Sanctum: You have starred in a number of TV series, but Mother's Soul was your first starring role in a feature film. Can you tell us about the differences between the two?
In my opinion, feature films are closer to reality and receive a lot more attention because of the prestige that comes with the big screen. TV series are much smaller productions that are a lot less intense, so you have to be true to your feelings when you act in a feature film.
Inner Sanctum: When did you discover you were good at acting?
The first movie I appeared in was director Nguyen Huu Phan's Long Me (Mother's Heart) at the age of four, but it wasn't until the third grade that I felt I had the ability to act. At that time, I was starring in the Story of Hoang Sa produced by the Military Film Studio, and found it came naturally to me. I actually can't remember how many films I've appeared in now.
Inner Sanctum: What is your favourite movie?
I watch a lot of movies, mostly on the Disney Channel, but I don't go to the cinema very often. My favourite is Mr Bean.
Inner Sanctum: You've had a lot of time off from school. What do your parents think about that?
Dad and mum allow me to pursue my passion, but at the moment, I think studying is the most important thing. After Mother's Soul, I received several attractive casting offers, but I turned them down because I was in the middle of my exams. I will be back in the studio during my summer vacation.
Inner Sanctum: How has your life changed since receiving the award?
Before the award found me, I was just a normal girl. Only a few people in the film industry had heard of me, but now my teachers and fellow-students know all about me. Sometimes when I'm walking down the street, people point at me and stare, which is a bit embarrassing. — VNS