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Distributor raises screenings for documentary on Vietnam transgender people over audience welcome

Thursday, December 25, 2014, 19:32 GMT+7
Distributor raises screenings for documentary on Vietnam transgender people over audience welcome
A scene from the documentary 'The Last Journey of Madam Phung'

The distributor of a documentary on transgender issues has made a decision to increase the number of its screenings following a passionate embrace by Ho Chi Minh City cinemagoers.

Blue Productions, a Vietnamese firm, initially planned to show “Chuyen Di Cuoi Cung Cua Chi Phung” (The Last Journey of Madam Phung) for 16 times between December 13 and 21. 

But the 86-minute film is scheduled for another 12 screenings from December 22 to 28 because it has been well-received by city audiences, according to the company.

A respectful perspective on LGBT people

Directed by Nguyen Thi Tham, the movie is a respectful, true, and positive perspective on the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community through the life of Phung, who passed away due to HIV when the film had not been finished.

Phung, called “chị Phụng (Madam Phung) in the film, was a trans-woman who fell in love with a Buddhist male monk during the time she was practicing Buddhism in a temple.

She thus decided to return to her secular life and formed a traveling fair troupe – Bich Phung – which gathered around 35 LGBT members to perform from central to southern Vietnam to earn a living.

The documentary has touched the audiences’ hearts by depicting the hard life of LGBT people as well as the complexity that transgender people always bear in their mind, so it is difficult for them to find love and they tend to die in loneliness.

Born in 1984, Tham graduated from the directing department of the Ho Chi Minh City University of Theater and Cinema in 2007.

During her second year at the university, she was selected for a documentary-making course in Ho Chi Minh City that was run by Ateliers Varan, a Paris-based association of filmmakers.

It took Tham five years from 2010 to complete “The Last Journey of Madam Phung.”  

To make the film, the director joined the Bich Phung troupe and became a part of it.

With a camera, a laptop, a sound device, and sometimes an assistant, Tham lived, slept, and worked with the group during the film-making process.

Sometimes she left the troupe to go to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to make some small flicks to earn money and then came back for her main documentary.

“Being with them made me feel like we were a family,” Tham said. “Now the film is finished but sometimes I get back to the troupe because I miss them. It feels like coming back home.”

“I didn’t think I could make a movie about transgender people. It’s a film about those who are weak and incline to be forgotten,” she added. “I am very likely to be attracted by those adventures in which I don’t know what is going to happen to me.”

A documentary for festivals

With its touching content, the flick had been praised overseas before it was screened for the public in Vietnam.

In April, the film received a “Special Mention” at the 2014 Chopshots Documentary Film Festival Southeast Asia held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The picture was also introduced at numerous other international film festivals, including the 36th Cinéma du Réel Festival in Paris the same month.

It was shown at the 2014 Margaret Mead Film Festival in the U.S. in October, the Taiwan Women's Film Association in Taiwan in October, the Freedom Film Festival in Malaysia in September, the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival in Myanmar in June, the European Vietnamese Film Festival in Vietnam in June, and the Festival du film de Lasalle in France in May, according to the Cinéma du Réel Festival’s website.

On December 13, “The Last Journey of Madam Phung” also received a trophy for “Outstanding Movie” voted by the LGBT community in Vietnam.

After the Ho Chi Minh City screening schedule ends, “The Last Journey of Madam Phung” will be shown in Hanoi from December 29 to January 1.

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