A Filmmaker Transformed by Her Subject

Posted on May 7, 2010

Filmmaker Leslie Wiener-Legrand (Teacher, premiering May 9 on Global Voices on PBS WORLD, check local listings) went to Ho Chi Minh City fully intending to make a travel documentary about Vietnam for the Lonely Planet franchise. But as she spent time in the city scouting out locales to highlight for prospective tourists, she found it ever more difficult to ignore the poverty all around her — particularly the plight of the city’s thousands of street children, many of whom have AIDS. 

As she found her lens drawn more and more to them and their stories, she met their guardian angel, Nguyen Van Hung, a former drug addict who came of age just as Saigon fell and who spent decades as an aimless street thug and heroin addict. How did such an unlikely character end up dedicating his life to the stricken children of Vietnam’s capital? wondered Wiener-Legrand. She was captivated, and shifted her focus — literally — from travel guide to social documentary. But it wasn’t just her work that was transformed: it was herself, as well. Watch this behind-the-scenes footage from the filmmaker as she explains how Nguyen taught her profound lessons in life, courage, death, generosity, and love as she made her film about him, Teacher.



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