Sunday, 28 July 2019

On being Asian (continued)

(at a cousin's birthday party - everybody in attendance was Vietnamese)
Girl (speaking in American): Hey!
Me: Hello.
Girl: I was wondering... Where are you from?
Me: Erm... It's my cousin's birthday... and she's French-Vietnamese, so...
Girl: Yeah I know, but I thought you look Mexican... Are you Filippino?
Me: ... That girl, my cousin who invited you. You know she has Vietnamese blood, don't you? And everybody here is Vietnamese
Girl: Yea I know... But you could be, you know... adopted, and Mexican, or Filippino...
Me: Now that I think of it, you look Filippino too!
Girl: NOOO! I'm Vietnamese!
X: What's your name?
Me: An.
X: You mean Anne?
Me: No. It's An. A.N.
X: Ann?
Me: It's a Vietnamese name. It is spelled 'A' 'N'.
X: Anh? 
Me: Anh means 'bigger brother' in Vietnamese. 'An' means 'contentment'
X: I see.... And how do you pronounce it already...?

X: What's your name?
Me: It is An.
X: Anne? Like the girl's name?
Me: In my country, An is a masculine name.
X: Of course! Anne used to be a masculine name! In the 17th century. Anne de Montmorency for instance... 
Me: (Indeed. Give me a powdered wig and the costume that goes with it, and you will see a striking resemblance with that Anne de Montmorency....)

(At a Vietnamese rally) 
Lady: Good evening young man. I saw you standing there all by yourself. 
Me: Good evening.
Lady: It is the first time for my daughter... (puts her hand on a shy girls shoulder). It's her first year studying medicine. What do you study?
Me: I'm a musician.
Lady: (after a pause) Oh... a musician... That's interesting... Oh sorry, I see a very dear friend of mine over there. I will go to greet her! Goodbye!
[...] after a couple of hours
Lady: Oh sorry! Here I am again. I heard that you were Ton That Tiet's son...? The composer? 
Me: Indeed I am. I surprised that you know about him...
Lady: Don't be modest! Your father is famous!!! ... My daughter also plays music. She has learned piano for three years, haven't you, dear? (looks at the shy girl)

(At another Vietnamese rally
Lady: (with her daughter) Good evening young man! 
Me: Good evening
Lady: This is my daughter L. She shoudn't be here tonight, because she should be home and study! But it's an important event!
Me: Yes, the exams are near...
Lady: Absolutely! So what do you study? Medicine too? 
Me: I'm trying to graduate from high school for the second time this year.
Lady: (after a surprised pause) Oh...
My mother: And he will PASS this year! Won't you? (looks at me with a wink)
... Then you can study hairstyling as you have always wanted!
Lady: Oh well... Good luck! (walks away with her shy daughter)

(at the LGBT center where I was volunteering)
X: I would like to introduce you to our new group. It's for people who love Asian culture, Asians and their friends...
Me: (weird way to put it...)
X: Yes, we want to promote Asian culture and organise cultural events, go to see shows and exhibition...
Me: Is that so...?
X: Where are you from?
Me: Vietnam.
X: A beautiful country!!!
[...] later...
X: So I hope to see you at some of our events! Maybe you can wear a kimono...? (wink wink)
Me: (Me? A kimono? ... So much for the promotion of Asian culture)

X: Where are you from?
Me: Vietnam
X: But you speak French so well!!!
Me: I was born in Paris.
X: Oh yes, because you don't really look French... And is your family name Nguyên? 
Me: No. It's Tôn Thât.
X: Oh really??? I thought all the Vietnamese were called Nguyên.
Me: As much as all French people are called 'Durand'

X: Where are you from?
Me: I'm a French born Vi.... I'm Vietnamese
X: Do you speak Chinese?
Me: Do you speak English?
X: But I'm French!!!

(at the ticketing desk of a concert venue in Paris) 
Girl: Here's your ticket... Hey... aren't you... An? 
Me: (trying to remember her face as quickly as possible) Yeeeesssss.... I am. 
Girl: You don't remember me, do you?
Me: I'm afraid not... 
Girl: I used to work at [...] 15 years ago. 
Me: Oh you know... Since I have moved to Taipei, I find that all Caucasians look alike...
Girl: (burst out laughing) Ha ha ha!!!! That's great! that's a good one! We totally deserve it! 

Little black boy: 你好
Me: 你好
Little black boy gives me a super happy smile.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

As I'm slowly slipping out of my comatose state, I wanted to share a few words about what is happening to The Third Wife in Vietnam. The film has been pulled from the theatres only 4 days after its release. There had been a nasty campaign against the film before it even reached the screens, and the target was the fact that the leading actress, Nguyễn Phương Trà My was underage and had to perform intimate scenes. If it could have been understandable were the concern for her truly genuine, it was evident that those supposed self-righteous defenders of morality were only aiming at destroying the film by harassing the young actress online, spreading their venom when they had actually not even seen the film, thus totalling missing the point the film is making. Those who have seen it know that everything was more suggested than shown during those 'hot' scenes. There was no gratuitous nudity, no child abuse, nothing explicit as people have claimed. Trà My was well surrounded, her wonderful mother was there to make sure that everything was done for the safety of her daughter, both physically and psychologically. I was there during the shooting, and I can testify to that. Beside, there's something called ACTING. People who have seen the film know what a tremendously talented actress Trà My is. And again, I would understand if people really worried about her. But by the way they have attacked Trà My, accused the director and the producer of promoting paedophilia or whatever else, it's obvious that there were other reasons to all this trolling and harassment. Jealousy? (most likely) Old grudge? Propaganda in disguise?
The film has so far garnered ten awards, went to more than 50 festivals around the world. It would, should have given Vietnam something to be proud of... Any other country would joyfully celebrate such an achievement.
It was an honour for me to be part of this film. I'm proud of what we have done. We wanted to tell a story that has happened in a not so distant past in Vietnam and is still happening now in so many countries. Time will settle the dust and perhaps - hopefully allow those people to see more clearly. Hopefully...