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 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.
I came up with the title Hoài (in Vietnamese meaning both ongoing and memory) to encapsulate the feeling experienced by queer refugee descendant—realities fractured with memories, multiple identifications, and an unsettling home that is rooted in refugee displacement.