Wednesday, 20/03/2024 10:26

Great actress helps movie to win at film festival

Actress Nguyễn Minh Châu at Berlinale Film Festival.  Photo courtesy of the actress

Vietnamese celebrated film star Nguyễn Minh Châu's most recent movie Cu Li Never Cries by director Phạm Ngọc Lân won the best first feature prize at the Berlinale Film Festival last month.

Châu is among few actresses to win the best actress award two consecutive times at Việt Nam National Film Festival. 

The actress spoke with Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Bình about the recent prize and her career. 

Could you talk about your role in Cu Li Never Cries?

My role is Nguyện, a labourer in Germany who marries a German man. In the past, they worked together in the Đà Hydro-power reservoir [in Hòa Binh Province in north Viêt Nam]. The man loves animals and he returns Germany bringing a pygmy slow loris with him. 

Nguyện tries to cling to dimming links to her past after inheriting the animal from her long-estranged husband, meanwhile her niece prepares for marriage as the young couple ponders their gloomy future together.

It is a simple story but I think that it will help the movie viewers to feel something. My personal feeling about the role is as someone who always wishes and wants to find a better life. But she cannot find it.

Audiences at my age will like the movie because it evokes memories of the past and longing for the past, and wishes for a better future.

How did you feel when the prize was announced for the movie?

I was very happy that the movie won the best first feature film. It took a long time to shoot the movie. The director was demanding and sometimes I wanted to quit because of health condition. 

The movie crew encountered many problems because it was shot during the pandemic. I had scenes in a forest swimming in the stream and being bitten by jungle leeches. I filmed so many swimming scenes that my whole body became weak. 

But the movie doesn't include these scenes. I have never had such a hard time as making this movie. In my career, I've never filmed a scene 20 times before. 

Even more, the two camera teams and the assistant director quit while the movie was shooting. I had to call and encourage the director to continue working. Then we had to shoot again. 

When the director received the award on the stage, I was very moved and crying because I feel happiness, love and pride. I love the movie crew and have sympathy with the crew, including me and the loris. 

I don't know why but I felt that the movie would be awarded. Even though it is not the top award, it is very moving. 

This is the fourth time director Lân and you have worked together. Can you talk about your work together?

Director Lân invited me to film in his previous short films. He told me that he was impressed by my eyes when he saw me in a Franco-Vietnamese film Người Thừa.

I don't know why all of his films are about women my age. I think that my appearance suits the roles. I used to ask him why he doesn't invite other actresses and he said he just wanted me to be in the film. 

When he came to meet me first time, I liked him. We worked together without get paid. I think that it was fate that I have natural association with him. 

Do you like working with young filmmakers?

I have often filmed with first-time feature filmmakers because I have sympathy with them. I help them without payment. The young filmmakers in HCM City also invite me to be part of their projects.

It is great for me to be trusted by young filmmakers. They are talented and ready to learn from the older generation and updated knowledge in filmmaking.

Like director Lân, he doesn't impose his way on the actors but he lets the actors perform as they feel best. He knows to moderate the extreme emotions so that the actors don't have to cry but the audience will cry.  

I do not see many filmmakers like Lân. All his films have awards. 

What could you tell more about filming with Lân many times?

I think I'm lucky. However, I think that he invites me to film because I'm a veteran actress. All the roles in his films are about the women my age. 

One thing is funny. I had an outfit that was presented by one of my friends long ago. It did not suit me, but I kept it as a souvenir. Lân likes it very much and I wore it from the first film for him.

After the third film, when I cleaned my house, I gave the outfit to another friend. But, in Cu Li Never Cries, Lân still wanted me to wear that outfit, so a costume designer had to make a copy. 

You are one of the few Việt Nam movie stars winning the best actress award at Việt Nam National Film Festival two consecutive years. Could you tell about the award-winning roles?  

People always ask which role in my career I like most. I like all of my roles because I agreed to film them. 

The role in Người Đàn Bà Nghịch Cát earned me Golden Lotus award for best actress in 1989. At first, this role was not for me. Director Đỗ Minh Tuấn invited another actress but she refused because she could not act the role. 

The role is a woman who becomes crazy because of family conflict. When I acted this role, everyone said no one else could perform this role except me. I acted, but it's like I didn't act.

I didn't need to rehearse because the director was afraid that if I rehearsed I would become crazy. When I finished those scenes, I went out and the doctor had to give me some medicine to calm down because my body was still shaking and my hands were cold.

It took me one year to step out of the role. 

What does cinema bring to you and take away from you?

It takes my youth and my life. I devote my life to cinema and I lose a lot. It puts my family and my child at a disadvantage. 

I think that I sacrifice for my career and it brings me glory, joy and I feel happy. 

It has been a long time since the audience could see you in a television series. Why?

I have received some invitations to film in television series. But I am not healthy enough to work in long-term series. Motion-picture is rare especially for actresses my age. There is almost none. 

Few years ago, I filmed in Đặng Thái Huyền's Lời Nguyền Gia Tộc shooting in Đà Lạt City. It is not important whether I have a main role or supporting role. If the role is interesting, I will film. 

The award at Berlinale Film Festival is to honour my country. It is my contribution to society and that is my luck.  VNS

Comments (0)

Related content