Di Tim Phong (Finding Phong) is a documentary depicting the eponymous protagonist’s journey after undergoing sex reassignment surgery to become a transgender woman in his twenties.
Even though the documentary has already received recognition across the world, it will only start showing in Vietnam on October 2, 2018.
Phong, one of seven children in the family, grew up in a rural village in Quang Ngai Province in central Vietnam.
Having felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, Phong always thought he was different and the odd one for having such thoughts.
As he moved to Hanoi to pursue education, he soon realized there are many others who are struggling with the same thing.
A few years later, Phong took control of his own life after having suffered for years and decided to physically change his gender so as to become a complete woman.
A one-hour-and-a-half-long documentary carefully depicts Phong’s year-long journey to become a woman through video diary footage shot by Phong himself while also portraying the family dynamics of the character.
The documentary frankly portrays issues of gender identity through Phong’s efforts to come out of the shell and find himself.
Phong graduated from the Hanoi Academy of Theater and Cinema, and is currently working at Thang Long Water Puppet Theater.
The documentary, completed in 2014, was directed by Vietnamese director Tran Phuong Thao and her husband, French director Swann Dubus.
The main character Phong was heavily involved in the movie making process as a cameraman and director, turning it into an intimate journal with details previous movies have not been able to depict.
“Finding Phong is not a traditional documentary, in which images are narrated with a voice-over, but it is a documentary that is real-life styled,” director and actress Hong Anh remarked in an interview with the Vietnam News Agency.
“There are many parts in which the character is both the director and the cameraman of his own life.”
“It is as if the character was talking to himself while confronting both himself and other invisible social limitations,” Anh said, adding that this is the distinguishing feature of the movie.
The movie has already been shown at several international film festivals, but it has not been widely introduced to the public in Vietnam except for the small and private gatherings.
Before being shown to the Vietnamese public on October 2, Finding Phong has already won several awards including Grand Prix Award for documentaries at Festival 2 Valenciennes 2017 (Valenciennes, France), Best Documentary at Festival In & Out 2017 (Nice, France), Amsterdam TranScreen Film Festival (Netherlands), and Asian American Film Festival (Austin, Texas, US), among others.
Documentaries play a vital role in making Vietnamese movies more diverse even though this genre has not been heeded, resulting in a lack of documentaries, especially the ones regarding the LGBT community.