Standing within the dense fog covering all over the scenery in Sapa Town, Lao Cai Province, Di and Vang sadly think about their beautiful childhood. Things have changed so much since they became teenagers. At the age of 15, H’Mong girls are struggling and fighting for their own independence and lives.
Somewhere else in the remote Southwest region, Phuong, a transgender singer, and her troupe are roaming around to earn for living on dusty and dreary streets. Little did she know, it was also the last tour of her life.
These stories are told in Vietnamese-themed documentaries, being on-screen at the reality film festival titled “The Varan Vietnam Adventure”. The film festival lasts until April 2 in Paris, France.
The young filmmaker Ha Le Diem’s “Children of the Mist,” Tran Phuong Thao’s “Workers’ dream,” and Nguyen Thi Tham’s “Madam Phung’s Last Journey” are just a few of the Vietnamese documentaries that joined the film festival. Vietnamese film projects are included in the curriculum of training programs in documentary filmmaking that Varan Vietnam Creator Camp has offered from 2004 to the present.
Documentaries are narrated by the characters’ own images and direct words in a contemporary filmmaking technique that features a live cinematic experience, synchronized sound, and little narration. Their engaging behavior in the movies leaves a lasting impression and inspires viewers to identify with them.
It appears that many of the less fortunate citizens are being left behind in a society that is open and developing quickly, like the Vietnamese one. They live in both rural and urban ares and come from a variety of social backgrounds. Young local filmmakers hope to portray those common people’s yearning for a better life using digital cameras. Six Vietnamese filmmakers from the Varan Vietnam creator camp – Tran Phuong Thao, Doan Hong Le, Pham Thi Hao, Swann Dubus, Ha Le Diem, and Nguyen Ngoc Thao Ly- give talks to the audience after each showing in which they discuss their experiences in the creation of these humanistic documentaries.
“Children of the Mist” was the first reality documentary that the young filmmaker Ha Le Diem had ever made. Di is a 12-year-old girl who lives in Vietnam, and the film follows her life. She is a member of the Hmong ethnic group, where women typically wed young and uphold the controversial “bride-kidnapping” custom. Di disappeared on the eve of the Lunar New Year. Diem is extremely proud that her 92-minute film, which took her more than four years to complete, has received so much attention both domestically and internationally. After only two weeks after its Vietnamese premiere, the movie has already drawn more than 10,000 viewers.
Nearly 100 international film festivals screened “Children of the Mist,” which has received 34 prizes, including the Clarens Prize for a humanistic documentary at the 2022 Reality Film Festival in France. It was previously one of the top 15 documentary nominees for the US Oscars in 2023. Meanwhile, “Madam Phung’s Last Journey” documentary is about a trip in the life of Phung and her troupe’s members, who are neither male nor female but half. These citizens seem to have no place within the strictures of Vietnam’s official society and few opportunities for legitimate employment. Performing at the fairs isn’t the only but best way for them to earn living.
Despite of harsh life, Phung believes herself to be a “guardian of spiritual tradition” as always travels around with a large statue of a female bodhisattva and performs rituals to honor the ancestors.
“Workers’ dream” a documentary by Tran Phuong Thao is about the desire to be a worker in an industrial zone of two young Vietnamese. In the film, Toan and Ngan fill in job application forms and go to interviews but fail to get work. Dinh talks about the working conditions in the international corporations which have been set up in Vietnam and voices her demands.
Thao films Toan and Ngan during these long days of waiting while they encourage and comfort each other. They talk about their hopes and disappointments, the lack of money and love. Ateliers Varan is a program devoted to Direct Cinema founded in 1978 by Jean Rouch with the intention of training filmmakers worldwide, claims Chantal Roussel, the festival’s organizer.
In order to assist youth in creating documentaries that reflect reality from their own perspectives, the first Varan workshop was held in Hanoi in 2004 by a group of instructors under the direction of André Van In. Nine workshops in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City have since been conducted. “The Varan Vietnam Adventure” Documentary Film Festival is part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of the strategic partnership between France and Vietnam.
According to vietexplorer