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09/06/2019 17:18 EDT | Updated 09/09/2019 14:36 EDT

'No Crying At The Dinner Table' Uncovers One Immigrant Family's Inner Lives

The TIFF film challenges the stigma of vulnerability in Asian households.

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What goes unsaid by immigrant parents? In turn, what do their kids keep from them?

Carol Nguyen explores these questions with her own family in “No Crying At The Dinner Table,” the Canadian director’s short film premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival

Born in Canada to Vietnamese refugees, Nguyen’s family has been part of her filmmaking since she started. From her high-school short on ethnic lunch angst to her 2017 documentary on the loss of cultural exchange between generations, it’s natural that her latest features the dinner table — a place where families are supposed to chat over meals, now the site for unguarded interviews Nguyen conducts with her mother, father, and sister. 

 

vimeo/carolnguyenfilms
Filmmaker Carol Nguyen interviews her family about grief, loss, and intimacy in "No Crying At The Dinner Table," which made its premiere at this year's TIFF. 

The conversations are doubly cathartic when the family gathers around the table to listen to the interviews together. For Nguyen, the format was essential to giving each family member the space and time their feelings deserved.  

“These discussions often get hidden under the rug, or they often get talked about without being fully heard or understood,” she explained. “So it was important for me to play them out and confront our whole family with what everyone was dealing with.”   

Nguyen has noticed that in Asian households, being vulnerable or talking about trauma is discouraged. It’s further complicated by the hardship immigrants endure and don’t want to bring up. 

“A lot of my questions have to do with their childhood and how war has affected them,” Nguyen said. “Even to this day, I know very little about what they have experienced.”

LISTEN: Born And Raised Podcast: Carol Nguyen talks about the constant mispronunciation of her last name and the toll that takes

 

Born And Raised is an ongoing series by HuffPost Canada. Part reflection, part storytelling, this series on the children of immigrants explores what it means to be born and raised in Canada. We want to hear your stories — join the conversation on Twitter at #BornandRaised or send us an email at bornandraised@huffpost.com.