Why did you change the original title of "Dr. McKinnon's File" into "The Man With the 200lb Tumor”?
It seemed more appropriate since this is really Hai’s story. We wanted the focus to be on him.
What messages would you like to convey through the film?
There are many messages that we wanted to convey. First and foremost is that Hai is an extraordinary man who handled his difficult problem (the tumor) with grace and dignity and never seemed bitter or angry, wondering aloud why God chose him for this awful disease. He always seemed cheerful even during the darkest hour when his surgery was cancelled and Dr. McKinnon flew back home to America.
We all expect our friends and family to help us when we have a problem, but in Hai’s case, there were many, many people in Vietnam – such as the wonderful people at the French-Vietnam Hospital – who helped him, and many more in the US and Canada who would not give up till he got the help he deserved. I’d especially like to single out the work of Dr. McKinnon – who received no pay for his work, and Sam Ottawa.
I’d also like to thank Amanda Shumacher of the Tree of Life Foundation and the US television network TLC, or The learning Channel, whose funding helped make everything possible.
We owe it to Robin who helped get France-Vietnam Hospital to examine Hai and admit him in the end, though Sam was also able to get Cho Ray to work with Dr McKinnon to save Hai, free of charge.
Though I’ve never been comfortable bragging about our own contributions, it is true that we, Morningstar Entertainment, never gave up on Hai, even when the Oncology Hospital made the decision to cancel the surgery, based on their best judgment and assessment.
Sam also reminded me that even though Oncology could not help Hai, the OH vice-director, Dr Tran Huy Quoc Thinh, said they would be happy to help and work with any hospital that would admit Hai.
Without whom none of this would have gotten arranged.
From a more practical standpoint we also wanted to demonstrate that often there may be a surgical solution to one’s problem and that they should search for help – and never give up no matter how bad the situation may appear to be.
How long did it take you to produce the film, including the time you and your staff took to script and shoot it?
We started working on the film last June, so it has been a year since we proposed the project to TLC.
Now Hai can eat by himself. In this photo, he has lunch together with his family. Photo by Quynh Trung
Before the public screening, the film was aired for only staff at Morning Star. How did they react (if at all)?
Everyone there was extremely proud of the film. We live in a country and an industry (the television business) where success is measured in ratings points, money, and critical acclaim in the form of awards like the Academy Awards; however, none of that mattered to us, nor was it why we all loved the film. What we were all most proud of was that we helped save Hai’s life and that we told his story in a dignified way that showed the world what an amazing man he is.
Now that your work on the documentary is done, would you like to return to Vietnam to make another film about Hai’s reintegration into the community, or perhaps about other local tumor patients like Sa Ly and My Dung?
That would be great, though a lot of things will need to be coordinated for that to happen. I would also like to personally visit the country because I have so much admiration for the people. I know that some people on our team are still trying to help him get a prosthesis or artificial leg so that he might be able to walk on his own again one day. Wouldn’t that be great?
As a film producer, did you notice any changes in your feelings over Hai’s life before and after the documentary?
Not sure how to answer that question. Obviously his life has changed dramatically since the tumor was removed, but he’s still the great person he always was, too.
Tuoitrenews: Thank you so much.
Titled “The Man With the 200lb Tumor”, the documentary featuring the life-changing surgery of Nguyen Duy Hai will be aired for the second time worldwide on TLC (The Learning Center) channel at 8:00am on June 28th (Vietnam time).
Morning Star Entertainment used some footage provided by Tuoi Tre for the film. In Vietnam, viewers can watch TLC on Kplus (K+).
Previously, the documentary premiered on June 6th (New York Time).