A Vietnamese documentary on a homosexual man who has been dead now has recently been screened at the 36th Cinéma du Réel Festival in Paris.
“Chuyen di cuoi cung cua chi Phung” (The last journey of Madam Phung), which began filming five years ago and completed last month, is a deeply moving story about Phung, a gay travelling singer who is dying from a critical illness.
The film director, Nguyen Thi Tham, said that she’s intrigued by the roaming, adventurous life adopted by Phung and her troubadour troupe, whom Tham joined for some time.
“Coming from a working family background, I’ve always been deeply related to disadvantaged, unfortunate people. Phung passed away soon after we completed filming the documentary, so we changed its title from the original ‘The fair troupe’ to ‘Ms. Phung’s last trip’ in fond memory of her,” Tham shared.
Phung is a gay man who fell in love with a male Buddhist during the time he was a monk. So he decided to return to his secular life and formed a travelling fair troupe which gathers transvestite “social outcasts” just like himself to support one another and earn a living.
The troupe and their lifestyle which many may find unacceptable have attracted curiosity and even hostility from local authorities and residents.
The film is deeply moving thanks to Tham’s attentive capture of the sometimes clipped rhythm of fairground life and to the way in which this small travelling community copes with the unfavorable weather and villagers who come and annoy them after the shows.
The 30-year-old director shared that during her second year at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Theater and Cinema, she was selected to join a documentary making course offered by Ateliers Varan, an association of filmmakers based in Paris, in HCMC.
Realizing that she’s cut for the genre, Tham decided that she would become an independent documentary maker.
Her 86-minute debut documentary, “Chuyen di cuoi cung cua chi Phung” has been warmly embraced in Paris, Nimes, Lyon and Marseille. The film also competed at Indonesia’s Chopshots Festival and is set to join documentary festivals in Taiwan and the Philippines in the coming time.
“We just sold the film to a French library. Though the pay isn’t so good, it’s a huge source of encouragement for me and my partners after we spent five years working hard on the project,” contented Tham shared.