Bui Kim Quy’s sophomore feature ‘Memoryland’ is a ‘beautifully composed’ film that explores attitudes about death in Vietnam, movie magazine Screen Daily wrote after a screening of the movie at Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in October.
This October, ‘Memoryland’ has made it to the silver screen of ‘New Currents,' a competitive category under the BIFF, after earning the publishing permit from Vietnamese authorities just two weeks earlier.
It is the brainchild of Vietnamese director and screenwriter Bui Kim Quy, with Dang Xuan Truong contributing as a producer and director of photography.
The duo previously collaborated in a BIFF-selected flick, which met with a ban from domestic screening in 2014.
'Memoryland' secured three screenings at BIFF on October 10, 11, and 14, but Quy was not able to leave Vietnam for the events due to her health issues.
The movie is about burial ceremonies in Vietnam, respect for the dead, and the love affairs of the living, according to the director.
“The second feature from writer/director Kim Quy Bui [...] uses a chain of interrelated stories to explore attitudes about death in Vietnam,” writer Allan Hunter remarked on the movie in his review on Screen Daily.
Divided into three acts, the movie begins with the death of a mother, who wishes for a simple funeral and burial in her hometown.
A neighbor respects her wishes and hacks out a grave for her, but her cash-strapped family has other ideas, exploring the option of cremation.
Conflicts then ensue as the will of the departed clashes with real-life financial burdens.
“In the city, everyone gets cremated,” argues her son.
“Your mother didn’t live in the city — only the soil can nurture the human soul,” explains the neighbor.
A second story tells of the death of a construction worker and the obligations that fall to his young widow.
The loneliness of her constant vigil at her husband’s grave eventually prompts her to move in with an elderly painter and become his muse.
In the third act, the link between the previously presented, seemingly unrelated stories eventually clears out.
“Ritual and practicality, harmony and discord, fond wishes and hard choices all compete in the struggle to achieve a lasting peace for the dear departed,” Hunter wrote.
The writer appreciated the film’s “poetic images of decay, crisply captured by cinematographer Xuan Truong Dang,” while also pointing out its attempt at social commentary, with consideration of the status of women whose wishes are seldom respected.
The movie received mentions from BIFF organizers, who recognized Quy for her growth as a director in their press release.
The BIFF also named ‘Memoryland’ as one of Southeast Asia's noteworthy titles this year that touch on the issues of gender inequalities and patriarchy.
Also featured in the BIFF's movie roster this year is 'Vi' (Taste,) an R-rated film by Vietnamese director Le Bao that was banned from screening in Vietnam after winning a Special Jury Award at Berlin International Film Festival 2021.
Despite receiving an injunction against the distribution of 'Vi' from the Vietnam Cinema Department, BIFF organizers decided to go forward with their plan, showing the movie three times in the ‘A Window on Asia Cinema’ program.
‘Vi’’s description on the BIFF website now only lists Singapore, France, and Germany as the countries responsible for producing the film.
Meanwhile, Le Bao and the Vietnamese film crew have renounced all author’s rights, copyrights, and revenue claims to the picture.