French Perspectives on Contemporary Vietnamese Film, Art, and Writing
Two main centers of Vietnamese studies in France, the Insitut de Langues et Cultures Orientales (INALCO), and Paris 7 – Jussieu, came together to launch, for the first time ever, a joint series of conferences to celebrate and discuss the current state of Vietnamese Film, Art, and Writing. The first conference featured a working panel headed up by Professor Đoàn Cầm Thi , consisting of three members: director and poet Dạ Thảo Phương, filmmaker Trương Quế Chi, and novelist Thuận. Each artist presented excerpts from their work before engaging in a debate with the audience: Lady Piano by Dạ Thảo Phương, Black sun / Mặt trời đen by Trương Quế Chi, and T. a disparu by Thuận.
The panel of four Vietnamese women artists and scholars was a pleasant surprise for the packed audience; Vietnamese studies have long been dominated in France by male experts and artists – the dissident author Dương Thu Hương being an exception to the rule. All four panelists considered themselves “Vietnamese living in France” rather than being French-Vietnamese. Professor Đoàn Cầm Thi has proclaimed in previous conferences that the difference between being Vietnamese and being a Vietnamese abroad means very little, especially in artistic production.
A sense of hauntedness pervades throughout the exhibition, as preternatural phenomena, as references to signs of former life, or as phantom flashes in multi-layered videos in Thùy-Hân Nguyễn-Chí's solo exhibition, In What My Eyes Behold Is Simultaneous.
A single woman supplied with a folding chair and multiple voices was able to render an entire audience paralyzed with grief. By the end of the show, it seemed clear that while this began as a tale seeking revenge, it was actually a tale of a daughter seeking to understand, connect, and honor her mother by any means necessary, even if it meant ripping apart scars by uncovering her and her family’s unaddressed trauma.