DGC Ontario Director Tiffany Hsiung’s documentary The Apology won the Allan King Memorial Award at last year’s Documentary Organization of Canada Awards and then most recently went on to win the prestigious Peabody Awards. We caught up with Tiffany and spoke about her experience of filming and travelling with The Apology .
On being the recipient of the Allan King Memorial Award….
When I found out, it was incredibly special, I never thought I would go into the field of documentary filmmaking and winning the Allan King award felt like a full circle. I looked up to Allan King, I connected to his filmmaking and the way he told universal stories. I don’t think anyone would see my film and expect to relate to the grandmothers my film is about, but that’s the power of documentaries. They create empathy. They help us realize that we are all part of the same world. Alan King taught me that.
The importance of the Female lens…
The films I have seen in the last decade which document sexual violence survivors have been mostly directed by men. I believe, for a subject matter like this, the nuance and understanding that comes from being able to sit and hold space with another woman, with a crew of women, make a huge difference. The process of having a Korean woman (Anita Lee) produce this film, as well as a female editor (Mary Stephens) cut the film had a huge impact when documenting such a specific story. I believe that our female gaze allowed us to bring the essence of that story and to look beyond victimhood to see the strength and courage of these women who had experienced such horrific sexual violence.
Advice for aspiring doc filmmakers
There is a bit of a masochistic thing in being a doc filmmaker. We are passionate about telling a story, about telling the truth and to giving it our all. My advice, no matter how important the story is, no matter how much you are striving to tell the best story, always check in with that network of people you trust and who will hold you because you too deserve to be held.
On her creative process
My creativity comes from my relationships… with the people and the community I am filming. I have to be able to connect on a human level. You are a guest in their world, so I am always checking myself and staying aware of what my presence in their community looks like. At the end of the day you have to ask: how would I want to be documented? How would I want my story to be shared?
On the success The Apology has seen…
It’s been a 2–3 year run since the release of The Apology and to see this film travel around the world has been amazing. I couldn’t be prouder of the grandmothers in my film. I know they never thought their stories would make such an impact but I knew that this is what they deserved. They’ve moved beyond survivors and are now heroes for the next generation.