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home : arts : arts Friday, April 26, 2019

8/22/2017 3:27:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
An Interview With Movie Director Kang Vang - Part 1

By Nancy Lee

Director Kang and his wife, Mikow
While there are many great Hmong Movie Directors out there, I got the chance to interview the amazing director of Hmong-American film, 1985, Kang Vang. With his great comedic film being rewarded the chance to be played at New York's Asian American International Film Festival, I just couldn't sit back and say no to an interview. The interview went as shown;

Nancy Lee: Please tell us a little about yourself.

Director Kang: I am a 37 year old filmmaker from the Twin Cities. I've been making movies ever since elementary school, but I didn't always want to be a filmmaker. I grew up drawing quite a lot, especially characters from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Calvin and Hobbes, and X-Men. My siblings and I drew on every single sheet of blank paper we could get our hands on. We sometimes tore the blank pages out of paperback novels from the library to draw on because we liked the paper quality. We didn't have very many toys to play with back in those days, and so we used our imagination a lot. We created our own games, our own sports, went on adventures around the block, and found ourselves living in these stories that I created. I think we also read more books than the average kid, and so we were always lost in some other world, whether it be in our imagination, or in the imagination of other authors. One day, my parents bought an old VHS camcorder to document family events, and somehow, I became the camera operator, and eventually the director of home movies. It just stuck with me because I was able to take my love for storytelling, drawing, and music and apply it all in one place. I've been doing it ever since.

NL: How did you come up with the film project, or what inspired you to make your film, 1985?

DK: There were many different aspects that inspired me to write 1985. One of them was that I wanted to write a story in which today's young people could relate to, but was reflective of the past I grew up in. I saw that the youth of today are still facing many of the same problems we faced growing up: racism, identity issues, inter-generational communication problems. I also wanted to make a film that portrayed the Hmong language in a way that would make young Hmong people want to learn the language further. I also felt it was very important to show the story of struggle and growth from the generation of young people who came to this country and paved a road for the rest of us. Their stories almost always get obscured by the Secret War in Laos, and I wanted to say that their stories here in this country are equally as important as the war.

NL: What was the main goal in your film? Why?

DK: I simply wanted this film to be something that Hmong people can watch and reflect upon about how far we have gone in these short 40 years, and how much farther we can still go. Our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles fought bravely for our freedom in Laos. That was their war. 1985 was only 10 years after the fall of Laos to Communism, only 10 years after many of us left the country and started a new life here in America to fight another battle here. That was the war for the generation of my older brothers and sisters. This is how far we were able to bring our people in 40 years, where will we be in the next 40? What battles will our children and grandchildren have to face?

NL: How did you cast your actors and actresses?

DK: It was a pretty standard process of making a call for actors, holding open auditions, and then casting. Two of our lead actors was a very last minute save because they came in to audition about a week after the auditions have closed. Zongkhang Yang, who plays a couple of characters in the film calls me up one day and asks if he could bring in three young actors. I told him that we had already closed the auditions and was ready to make the decisions, but he kept pushing insisting that I need to audition them, if not for this film, then to have them in mind for other projects. So I caved in and allowed for the audition. They BLEW ME AWAY! So I hired all three of them, but only two out of three decided that they wanted a part in film. So, for you actors out there, keep pushing because you never know what could happen!

NL: We heard your film has been selected to be played for a film festival in New York, please tell us about it.

DK:Yes, we were officially selected to be a part of the longest running, and one of the biggest Asian American film festival in the country called the 2017 AAIFF (Asian American International Film Festival.) It is a complete honor to have been selected or even to be recognized by this festival!

NL: Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

DK: I think both are equally difficult. The most difficult thing is to actually believe in yourself enough to put your entire being into it. I had to quit my job so I could focus on this film FULL TIME. That was very scary, but fortunately, I have the most supportive and loving wife a man could ask for. A difficult thing I had to conquer in order to make this film come to life, was to raise enough money to make the movie. Our community is truly a beautiful and loving community. A big chunk of this film was funded by the community, giving $1 at a time to a few hundred dollars! Having that faith from the community really boosted the faith in myself and my team.

Look for Part 2 of Nancy Lee's interview with Director Kang in the August 30th issue of the Hmong Times.

St. Paul, MN



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