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Cynthia Biret

I am a freelance journalist covering fiction and documentary films and T.V. with print and/or video interviews, from Academy Awards winners and nominees to Indie filmmakers. 

An expert storyteller, I also have experience as a producer, writer, director, editor and videographer and have worked with the majority of networks and cable channels.  

I mentored a young student in a campaign against human trafficking, and produced and directed the first documentary to been shown at TEDx; produced and wrote a documentary about the Sovereign rights of a First Nation indigenous tribe. Passionate about the protection of the environment, I also traveled to the Amazon to witness the impact of deforestation, and directed a documentary to raise awareness about the urgency to protect wildlife. 

Originally from France, I currently live in Los Angeles.  


Interview with Laura Nix for her Oscar nominated documentary "Walk Run Cha-Cha"

Laura Nix and producer Colette Sandstedt at the Oscars Luncheon. 

“Walk Run Cha Cha” tells the story of Paul and Millie Cao who were separated in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, and reunited years later in Southern California.  Bringing their passion to life on the dance floor, director Laura Nix offers an invaluable insight into the lives of refugees who pursued their dreams against all odds. 

The short documentary was recently nominated for an Academy Award. 


Cynthia Biret:  What was your inspiration for making this film? Are you also a dancer?


Laura Nix:  I am into dance, but I danced mostly as a younger person until I met Paul and Millie and they were the ones who actually inspired me to start dancing again. I was doing research on the neighborhood, and I walked into their dance studio totally by accident.  And when I walked in, I saw about forty to fifty people dancing the tango in the middle of the day;  they were Asian people, and I was very curious to understand what is this beautiful world, so I started taking dance classes at the studio.  And I discovered that most of their teachers are Eastern European or Russian and professional ballroom dancers, and they are teaching standard and latin dance to people from the Chinese community in suburban Los Angeles.  

To me, that’s the best version of America. I think it’s a real important story to tell right now while we are in the midst of this anti-immigration hysteria.  


Biret:  Why did you decide to focus on Paul and Millie?


Nix:  I took classes at the studio for about a year, and made friends along the way, and Paul and Millie were very open to me.  We struck up a friendship, and I got to know them better, and learned a little bit about their back story.  I found out that they are basically Chinese, but grew up in Vietnam where they had come as refugees, and I was really intrigued to understand why they were doing it so seriously, because they worked full time and they still danced four to five times a week, and I just thought that was extraordinary.  That’s when I popped the documentary question:  Would you let me film you?  And they said yes.  And I filmed them for six years for a feature length documentary, and then Concordia studio heard about the project, and they asked me if I would be interested in making a short film to be a part of a series about immigration they were making with the NY Times Op Docs.  


Biret:  The style of the film is very poetic, from their dance lessons to their mundance day to day activities.  


Nix:  I worked with a wonderful editor named Alex Juutilainen; Alex and I went to graduate school together and we share the same film language because we kind of grew up in the same film education, and we discovered certain things together, for instance, Paul and Millie are very comfortable with me dancing, but they are a little less comfortable with me going into personal parts of their life, so I waited a long time to ask them more personal questions.  I waited actually until lI was making the short film to do more of a focused interview with them.  I made the decision to do my interviews with them audio only; so I did 14 hours of audio only interviews so I could ask them questions they might be a little less comfortable answering on camera, and I found that it was a more intimate scenario and they were more interested in telling me more. I then incorporated that scene with them telling their backstory and it’s cut against images of these portraits of their face as well as these interstitial moments where they are casually interacting with each other, that’s a discovery was made in the edit room. 


Biret:  It works very well as their presence becomes even stronger on camera. 


Nix:  Sometimes people say that it’s interesting that I decided not to use the on camera interview and they are surprised to learned that there is no on camera interview.


Biret:  There is a subtle movement throughout the film, through their daily lives, as if their activities become part of a choreography. 


Nix:  I’m glad you noticed that, thank you. 


Biret:  What were your challenges while making this short?


Nix:  Because I had so much footage, I had been shooting them for so long; it was very difficult to figure out what story to tell in the short, I actually experimented with cutting different stories, until I found this one.  But we had so much material, it was difficult to find what would work in a more truncated fashion; but once I figured out the narrative of how to tell this kind of story, through the lens of the past, through the lens of this love story, that made more sense. 


Biret:  The story of their immigration is told through their lives right now, through what they have become.


Nix:  Paul and Millie are American citizens, they arrived here forty years ago, and I felt it was very important not to define Paul and Millie only through their original trauma as refugees, and what happened to them leaving the country.  It’s certainly part of their story, but it’s not the only part of their story.  And as we think of America and our nation of immigrants, it’s very important not to look at people when they first arrived only, when people are more vulnerable.  But what happens forty years later?  When people like Paul and Millie have learned to speak English, they got jobs, they got degrees, they became working professionals, and now they get to enjoy their lives by dancing.  And I think that it’s an equally important story to tell about immigration right now. 


Biret:  Are you including other dancers in the full length film?


Nix:  I’m going to be telling more about the story of their teachers, Maksym and Elena, because Maks is immigrated from Ukraine, and Elena from Belarus, so there will be more story about this beautiful and unique relationship that they have with their teachers, and a little bit more about the communities that they live in, because there is a very interesting group of dancers at the studio who have similar stories.  


Biret:  It’s fascinating to watch these people moving in harmony, no matter their age. 


Nix:  The film is also about creative aging, and how we can decide to live our lives, even in our later years, because I think Paul and Millie are very inspiring that way:  They can be home, watching TV every night, and instead they are going out and practicing dancing, and I think it’s a great model to live by.  


Biret:  It’s specially important in today’s culture which is so focused on youth.  How far are you from finishing your feature?


Nix:   We are still filming. 


Biret:  Thank you very much Laura! 


"Walk Run Cha Cha" is availble to view here:



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