This is a beautiful, yet heartwrenching story. Norwegian Director Hans Petter Moland has shined the light on some pretty horrific things that happen everyday to illegal immigrants. The story follows a half-Caucasian/half-Vietnamese young man from his home to his search for his real mother and then his father in the USA. The score by Zbigniew Preisner (Three Colors Red, and all of those great Polish films) is haunting and delicate. The early scenes in Vietnam felt a little trying too hard to capture Vietnamese exoticism, but as soon as we move in to the modern film harmonic language, Preisner’s score is very effective.
Nick Nolte’s performance is just spot on perfect.
What made it even more hard to watch was the fact that we used to live in Hong Kong and have seen the camps set up for the Vietnamese. Set in the most beautiful green hills in a remote area, the walls were 20 feet high blocking any view of anything except for the sky. My wife went to the camps to run some HIV workshops and the people were just so appreciative to have anyone from the outside actually thinking about their well-being. Some of those kids then took part in the summer school program (Summerbridge Hong Kong) she directed.
The magic of film has made us all feel the pain and suffering in a way like no other.
I went to Vietnam in 1993 to headline a concert on China Beach at an international surf competition. We stayed a night in Ho Chi Minh City and played an impromptu gig at a club/restaurant where we were eating dinner. There was a wedding going on and the bride and groom and all their guests gave us a standing ovation. Flying in, we saw hundreds of “crater lakes” which covered the country. We played a gig at the Da Nang city hall with amps that looked like were from pre-war Soviets. I lost my electronic tuner that night. There were hordes of very enthusiastic young Vietnamese men hanging around us everywhere. One night at a club where we were honored guests watching some great music, I expressed my admiration for the Vietnamese instrument called the dan bau. It’s a single string wooden instrument that sits on a table and the tension of the string is changed with a flexible plastic or wooden “bow”. The player, usually women, can express so much by also using harmonics created by touching the side of the hand to the string. The band we saw were fully amplified and the player, a man, was doing Jimi Hendrix plays the dan bau. Awesome! The next night, standing on the beach playing our concert, a man came up to us and said he had heard I was interested in the dan bau and had driven 40 miles with his. I bought it and have since not been able to get it to sound anything close to what I heard that night.
We drove motorcycle across the rice paddies on the mud walls that line them. Stopped and had a slow drip coffee and baguette – best in Asia. And those beautiful school uniforms, flowing white as the girls rode home for lunch on their bicycles…Vietnam was/is so magical. It truly is a beautiful country.