ACTRESS WANTEDDirected by Minh Duc Nguyen
Filmmakers in attendance.
In this intergenerational exploration of Vietnamese American diasporic identities, cultural memories, and collective trauma, director Minh Duc Nguyen crafts a twisted tale concerning Vu (Long Nguyen), a lonely recluse, and his employment of a local, young actress, Mai (Thien Nguyen) to help him relive the experience of his beloved, dead wife in this Hitchcockian thriller.
Shot in Orange County’s Little Saigon and around neighborhoods in Garden Grove and Westminster, the quotidian lives of local Vietnamese and familiar haunts take on a sinister veneer through Minh’s lens. Discouraged by both lack of and failed auditions, Mai and her roommate, Long (Isabelle Du) commiserate in their sun-drenched apartment. Desperate to book a job, Mai answers a mysterious newspaper advertisement that seemed tailored for her, a Vietnamese-American actress. One can interject critical commentary here about the continuing lack of roles, both advertised and let alone created, for Asian Pacific American actors. Ignoring her own skepticism, she dispatches herself to the remote, isolated residence of her employer Vu, where nothing is what it seems.
As a larger-than-life portrait of Hong, Vu’s dead wife, hangs looming, he shares with Mai his meticulously conceived script of his ten most cherished memories of his wife and entreats her to assist in executing them as reenactments. Moved by the older man’s obsessive devotion, she throws caution to the wind and humors him with his odd request. Through these reenactments, we get meaningful insights about the various challenges, struggles, and resilience within the Vietnamese immigrant experience in California and the US. Ratcheting up the tension and suspense in this increasingly, untenable arrangement, Minh taps into the psychological dominion so well mined in historical and contemporary thrillers from Hollywood’s VERTIGO to J-horror’s AUDITION. Both lead actors won acting awards at this past edition of Viet Film Fest, where the film had its world premiere. — Lindy Leong
Co-presented with Community Partners: Laos Angeles, Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association (VAALA)
Director, Writer: Minh Duc Nguyen
Producer: Thien A. Pham
Director of Photography: Terrance Stewart
Production Designer: Nicole Rene Miller
Costume Designer: Inka Sherman
Composer: Jordan Halpern Schwartz
Cast: Long Nguyen, Thien Nguyen, Isabelle Du, Sulinh Lafontaine