Viet Nam News
Famous comedian Hoài Linh has reduced his audience to tears in the newly released film Dạ Cổ Hoài Lang (Night Drumbeats Cause Longing for Absent Husband) directed by Nguyễn Quang Dũng. Linh tells Hà Nguyễn that his own experiences helped him play truthfully a character uprooted from his country.
Inner Sanctum: Can you tell us what the film is about?
The film is not long and has few characters, but its story is true and significant. Actors and actresses have done very well in depicting the lifestyle of different generations of Americans of Vietnamese descent, the friendship, the love between couples, and the love of one’s homeland.
There is this popular belief that the overseas Vietnamese community is lucky and happy, but not many know of the loneliness they have to suffer when leaving their native places.
In fact, many Vietnamese abroad miss their home. They always want to return, instead of living in a strange place with a strange language and culture.
The film’s end is upsetting as it indicates the fate of many Vietnamese who are wandering all over the world to earn a living. They can live a relatively comfortable life, but they are still on tenterhooks in terms of their ties to their native places.
The film has not only stirred Vietnamese people abroad, but also made people who live with their families realise how lucky they are, that they should respect and appreciate what they have.
Inner Sanctum: What was it that inspired you to play the role of Tư Lành in the film so successfully that many in the audience were in tears?
I resettled in the US in the winter of 1993. My first Tết (Lunar New Year festival] there was very sad. No words can reveal my sadness. Although my parents had made bánh chưng (traditional square cake), we could not find a yellow ochna flower to welcome Tết. Our grandparents’ graves and close relatives and friends are at home, so I had nowhere to go.
My parents felt less lonely because they have dozens of relatives there. So I know that in the US, many elderly people are lonely, they are sad because their children live far away from them. Many of the elderly have been sent to nursing homes where they get their daily comforts, but lack a close relationship with family members.
I found Tư Lành or Năm Triều (characters in the film) in the elderly expatriates I’ve met, as also my parents. They accepted to live far away from their motherland because they thought of their children’s future. They had to try and integrate quickly into a new community abroad. This has made me respect them a lot.
The scene where Tư Lành goes on a bus to visit his children is similar to what I did in the first years after I arrived in the US.
Every morning I went by bus to go to work and returned home or went with my friends because I didn’t know how to drive a vehicle.
The tense quarrel between Tư Lành and his grandson is very truthful. I thought the director invited me to act Tư Lành, not just because I had lived abroad, but also because of my thin and stunted form. I look like an elder from a rural area.
Inner Sanctum: What did you find difficult when acting in this film?
The toughest part was that we shot the film in Canada, where temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees Celsius. I had to wake up very early in the morning for having my face made up to look older.
We went there a year earlier to shoot, but there was no snow. We waited and waited, but had to return to Việt Nam.
We returned to Canada last winter. We were lucky because there was a lot of snow. Thank God that our efforts paid off. The film, which is running in all cinema houses in Việt Nam until the end of this month, has been so successful that the flow of audience has been continuous.
Inner Sanctum : Do you have any future plans?
I have worked very hard to earn money to build a temple to my forefathers. Now I’ve finished it. I am joining less game shows now because I see that I don’t fit… except for some reformed drama programmes that I’ve liked. Now I have time and the option to choose to act in films that suit me.
I have a dream. I want to build a stage for long tragicomedies. Thinking of such a stage makes me happy. — VNS