Directed by Việt Vũ
Vietnam / 2021/ 26 min/ Documentary
In the middle of a landscape on the brink of extinction, a trembled son treks along with a mother into a native cave for a metamorphic revitalization. Told in the first person voice, this personal portrait cuts deep into the vulnerable present moments of a long-historical South East Asian nation which is transiting into the digital age.
I believe everything happens at God’s will. In my case, this film was conceived at the will of my Goddess Mother, at the same time that I was born. My mom keeps telling that she gave birth to me at a hay cock in my grandma’s garden in a nameless rural farm in Vietnam at the end of the last century. Far from laws, I experienced a free childhood among dirt, rock, rain, water, rice plants, grass, and luxuriant trees. I turned into adolescence at the same time that Vietnam is in transition into the contemporary time of urbanization & digital age. In parallel with drastic change in my homeland, I struggled lonely with my own existential crisis. After some time, I see a number of young boys and girls coming from the backyard regions share the same story with mine.
Vietnam right now has more than 98 millions of population. A majority among them, with generations over generations for centuries, have fundamentally survived on farming land and forestry. Industrialization and globalization shake up even the most remote area of this tropical land. More and more areas of farming and forestry land are being taken for urbanization plans. As the primary jungles are narrowed down, the farming land disappears, the most intimate surviving habitat disappears, the newly grown-up boys and girls from basic families in the native land are also split from a tradition of living that has been familiar to many generations of their forefathers.
The son in this film is such a person. Inheriting an intimate landscape which is being fast erased, the boy gets stuck into a dilemma situation of losing both his familiar way of surviving as well as his own identity. Looking back at his recent history, he gets trembled because his homeland not only used to be milked by the western colony but also has been being capitalized by the present rulers and economically polygamic enterprises. Looking ahead to a near future, his surrounding landscape has been drastically changed that he is anxious of becoming an exile on a new strange country.
Fortunately, the boy has a love from an aging mom. With nothing but an intimate aging body, it is the merciful unaccountable warm love from that weak woman that helps the boy heal all of his internal traumas caused by the external losses. In this film, after an arduous trek together, the mom quietly sits in a humble and private corner inside a cave, listening to the son’s trembling anxiety, sharing her loving energy through the naked-body hug and eventually re-breastfeeding her anxious son. Ironically, after giving everything she has to the son, it is also time for the mom to disappear away, along with her own former sparkling golden landscape.
Beyond the frame, this film speaks of a spiritual belief and customs of native Vietnamese people – a worshipping belief in Goddess Mother. At the threshold of a new age, when sophisticate digital machines could cast their eyes on any most sacred corner of the Earth, the boy tries to uses a tiny and seemingly invisible digital camera (a new tool) as a medium to freeze timeline, cut time into pieces, jumping back to the past perfect tense, looking beyond the frame and connect himself to an almighty invisible Goddess Mother that has existed among his people for several thousand years. Seemingly thanks to the new tool, her whisper about a fragile promise of an eternal springtime could arrive into his ears and wake him up.
The film ends when the real film about a boy coming from a marginal region of a country in transition has just started. Left back alone, with a big love from a passing-away mom, a newly-sprouted hope from invisible Goddess Mother, and a small tool in his hand, the fully grown-up boy must whisper to himself that it is too late not to walk into a vast land of the new century.
by Viet Vu