Mein Vietnam

#Review: Mein Vietnam (East Asia Film Festival Ireland)

The East Asia Film Festival Ireland is happening again this year from the 25th of March until the 28th of March. This year once again is virtual due to the pandemic but that doesn’t stop the line up from being an engaging one. The first film I got to see this year is the debut documentary film by Hien Mai. This film is Mein Vietnam and it is heartbreaking.

Mein Vietnam is the story of a couple who fled from Vietnam to Germany in 1990. Fast forward 30 years and Tam Mai and Bay Ngyuen are living a semi-comfortable life. They are both cleaners who work every evening, they then spend the rest of their time on their laptop and PC. Tam uses this to connect with his friends in family in Vietnam. He clearly misses his home and is living in limbo in Germany. Tam hasn’t learned the language, and when a hurricane destroys their home in Vietnam he becomes a man possessed to get it rebuilt. He pours so much unnecessary money into a house that he hasn’t lived in properly for years, possibly decades.

Now looking to Bay and she is a woman who is trying to live in this home she made away from home. She’s learning German, looks forward to the birth of her grandchild and spends her extra time trying to better her life. As you follow them throughout the course of the 70-minute snapshot into their lives you see that they sadly seem to be drifting apart due to one of them living in the past and the other looking to the future.

All we do is worry

There is a sombre sense of disconnection that Tam and Bay feel to Vietnam. They are spectators to the destruction of their home in Vietnam. They’re powerless when ill relatives need help. Their laptop, PC and their phones are lifelines. And if any of these are cut or, god forbid, all of them then they can’t see people they grew up with. This is a timely theme especially in the times we survive in currently.

Though this is Hien’s first film she has a deft hand at showcasing the sorrow and beauty of her family. And I suppose this is one of the fascinating elements of the film. This is Hien’s mother and father. She shows their complicated relationship in all its glory and I couldn’t help fall in love with them.

There is also the way the camera showcases the life that Tam and Bay live their life. The apartment is reasonably sized but it is cluttered and filled to the rafters with furniture and odds and ends. One would take this as the apartment not being large enough for items they bought over the years. I took it as Tam readying to move back into Vietnam but it never happened. It also gives off a sense of never properly settling in.

Do you know the verb to relax?

Mein Vietnam is a touching and tragic film. It is about two people trying to live a life disconnected from their home while trying to build a better life for their family. And though they struggle still today their children are happy and thriving and this film is a celebration of that.

If you enjoyed this review and are interested head over to the IFI website to pick up your virtual tickets for the East Asia Film Festival Ireland. I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

Stay tuned to Scannain for more news, reviews and interviews.