Words Apart

SYNOPSIS.

Worlds Apart is a story about a family in crisis. It focuses on the conflict between two young Vietnamese Australians and their parents. As their children turn eagerly towards all that a new culture has to offer them, their parents retreat back towards the values that have always supported them in the past.

Thuy, has left the family home after an argument. He has left school and has been living where he can, on the streets or with friends. During this time he has been using drugs and is now desperate and wants to return home. To do this he must reach some sort of understanding with his parents. In Vietnam the father is the undisputed patriarch who holds the rights to enforce discipline in any way he sees fit.

Three generations of the family live together in an inner urban high rise flat. Minh (the father) and Thuy (the mother), are both working long hours and have little time to spend with their family. It is they who bear most of the responsibility for the family and who in a sense have sacrificed the most by coming to Australia. They are both working jobs well below the qualifications they held in Vietnam. They have very high expectations of their children and push them to achieve high status in their new country. At the same time
they cling to their past cultural values and expect their children to do the same.

This clash of cultures within the same family provides the undercurrent to Worlds Apart, and is essentially the major problem confronting Vietnamese families today.
BACKGROUND

With each successive wave of immigration in recent Australian history a pattern of cultural breakdown, family crisis and social realignment has occurred. The process of adjustment to a new country, a new culture as well as the removal of traditional roles and value systems has created a great deal of conflict particularly between successive generations in the same family.

These conflicts occur in an environment of cultural isolation where family members often don’t share a common first language. The Vietnamese community is the largest and most prominent group to be experiencing this upheaval in Australia today.

Phuong and Long are irresistibly drawn to the music, the fashions and the ideas of their friends at school.

They want to participate in the exciting and dynamic culture, and their experience at school encourages them towards independent thought. They are encouraged to question and to draw their own conclusions on a whole range of issues especially sexuality, and independence.

At home they are expected to be obedient, compliant and quiet. They are required to accept many cultural conventions that seem at odds to their experience of Australian culture.

While education is seen as the ticket to a better life, their parents are unable to assist them because of the language barrier.

Phuong and Long are regarded by their parents as children until such time as they marry and move out of the parental home. They have essentially no rights and no way of negotiating with their parents because to answer back is seen as a lack of respect. Issues such as sexuality can never be discussed because they are seen as adult topics.

The Production

Worlds Apart is a 21 minute drama filmed on digital video for television.

It is certain to generate a great deal of attention within the Vietnamese community and with a wider audience, because it depicts the experiences of successive waves of immigrants coming to terms with a new culture.

It was edited to rough cut on Lightworks by Ken Sallows( Malcolm, Proof, That Eye The Sky, Love and other Catastrophes). Ken then completed the edit once we had the post production funding in place.

Worlds Apart is directed by Garry McKechnie who has a solid background in theatre direction and film/video production. The script was written in close collaboration with members of the Vietnamese community, and was co-directed by the young Vietnamese born theatre director Tony Le Nguyen, who recently featured in a story on the ABC’s7.30 Report.

The producer is Gregory Miller, who has produced and directed both documentaries and short dramas.

Minh (the father) is played by Than Pham a popular actor in Vietnamese cinema before fleeing to Australia. Worlds Apart is his first role in film in fifteen years.

Worlds Apart is a bold new step in Australian television production. The film was produced with a $30,000 sponsorship, was edited to rough cut on deferrals and then received a further $43,000 from the Australian Film Commission to enable the edit and the post production to be completed. It is a good example of the quality that can be achieved with a low budget and creative commitment.

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