Breaking The Silence (Isabelle Vang, Pawel Lisiak) France

Breaking The Silence
Isabelle Vang, Pawel Lisiak
France. 2020. 65 min

When I was a teenager, I would ask my parents questions about their past. “Why did you run away from Laos? Why did you choose France?” Silence. “That’s the past. We have to forget it,” my father would answer. I was helpless as his reply was like a slap in the face. I was an adult when I discovered I had an elder sister while flipping through a photograph album. It was the face of a child. She had died during the turmoil of the Vietnam War. Nobody had ever spoken to me about her. After this revelation, I decided to go and pick up the lost threads of the history of my parents and that of thousands of other Hmong immigrants. I invited my father to come on a journey to Laos. He accepted to follow me and go back to the country he left 40 years ago. Today, at last, my father feels ready to talk.


Born in Jarocin in Poland, Paweł Lisiak arrived in France at the age of three. He first devoted himself to his first passion, tennis, before entering the audio-visual and filmmaking industry.
At twelve years old, he discovered the works of Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Cocteau and Terence Fisher, which inspired him to get behind the camera. He began to direct “little films”, which were more tests than finished works, with his father’s VHS camcorder.
In 1996 he took his first cinema classes in high school in Amiens, enrolled in a program specializing in audiovisual media, where he obtained his literary baccalaureate diploma.
In 1998, he entered ESRA, an audiovisual production school in Paris, where he studied directing and staging for three years. In 2003, he earned a master’s degree film studies. He directed his first short film “Sweetheart” in 2004. He continued his studies in cinema at the University of Picardy Jules Verne (bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts specializing in cinema and master’s degree in directing and film creation.


2021 – THE DESPISED, 62′
2018 – RIO OR BUST, 77’


All my life, I had the strange feeling that a part of me was somewhere else. My name is Isabelle. I am Hmong. In 1975, my parents fled Laos in war, leaving everything behind for an uncertain future in France. Why am I in France today? What happened there? What did my father do during the Vietnam War? My dad never told me about it. I know my parents suffered, but I don’t know why. Why stir up the past? often tells me my father. They all want to forget. Except me. I am the last of a large family and yet the only one to think about it.

Consulting a family album, in a photograph I see a little girl in my mother’s arms. This is my older sister Kiab, who died at the age of three years during the Vietnam War when my parents were on the run.

No one had ever told me about her existence. Silence. At this moment, I realize that my parents kept buried deep in them a pain unsuspected. Death and oblivion, this is what awaits the Hmong, if we, the children, do not testify, if we let our parents go, without listening to them, without talking to them, without trying to understand them.