Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Blowing in the winds of Vietnam

“Misao Sasho teaches Japanese in Hanoi, Vietnam. One day she receives a phone call from Japan informing her of her father’s passing. Upon returning to Japan for her father’s funeral, she realizes that her mother has deteriorated and is becoming senile. She decides to take her back to Vietnam. The new environment works wonders. Misao’s mother enjoys the company of Misao’s acquaintances. She is suddenly the centre of attention...”

(Text from the Festival's program)

WARNING: May contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.

This is one of the two best movies I've seen at the MWFF in 2015.

Misao is teaching Japanese in Hanoi, Vietnam. When she returns to Tokyo for her father's funeral, she realizes that her mother Alzheimer's disease has gotten worse. She' bored at a stranger's funeral: her husband's! Her step-mother cannot take care of her anymore so Misao decides to bring her back to Vietnam with her, despite the opposition of her family. "It will make her worse" or "it will kill her," they say.

At first, it works out pretty well and, despite the language barrier, her mother is getting along with Misao's friends, students and the people of the neighbourhood (mostly owners of the local cafe's, the Sakura Hotel, Japanese bar, the programming director of the VoV radio station, as well as the staff of the Youth Theatre, and a Japanese expat who drives a bicycle taxi). Together, they all live several adventures like helping a young Japanese woman to find her grand-father's Vietnamese family that he left behind after WWII or organizing a musical show starring a very old (and also Alzheimer's sufferer) theatrical actress.

Misao is even reacquainted with an old friend from her college days -- when they were protesting during the university uprisings of the '60s. He takes a job as another bicycle taxi driver but has an accident while carrying Misao's mother who gets seriously hurt. Feeling guilty, he helps taking care of the old women after her hospitalization, but he has to leave because of his job as a TV producer. However, Misao cannot take care of her mother alone. It is a vey demanding task and she gets sick herself because of it. This is quite a somber moment in the movie and we really feel the pain for her (it has particularly hit home for me because, at the time of the screening, I had recently experience a similar situation in my family).

In the end, the mother gets better (from her hip replacement NOT from the Alzheimer's because you never get better from that, you can only slow it down a little). Misao's students stage a musical around a Japanese folk song that can provide a sort of allegory for Misao's situation. Apart from Misao's mother post-accident despair, it a fell-good and up beat movie. We have to take one day at a time and enjoy life while we can -- and not give up on our loved ones.

The movie not only want to create awareness on the fact that the increasingly aging population of Japan means that the society will have to deal more and more with the problem of elderly's dementia, but also it wants to remind the Japanese of the close ties (and maybe responsibilities) that still bind them with Vietnam, which was one of their pre-WWII "colonies."

One negative point: I was told by someone who speaks vietnamese that the language spoken by the Japanese actors (which they most certainly learned phonetically) was so terrible that it was impossible to understand.

It is a well-paced drama that offers lots of light-hearted moments and allows the viewers to enjoy not only the beautiful cityscape of Hanoi, but also the surrounding countryside.

I really enjoyed this beautifully made movie which provided an excellent entertainment while making us think about very serious subjects like alzheimer and wars in Vietnam.

Blowing in the winds of Vietnam (ベトナムの風に吹かれて / Betonamu No Kaze Ni Fukarete): Japan/Vietnam, 2015, 116 min.; Dir.: Tat Binh & Kazuki Omori; Scr.: Kazuki Omori, Uichiro Kitazaki (based on a novel by Miyuki Komatsu); Phot.: Koichi Saito; Ed.: Naoki Kaneko; Music: Tetsuro Kashibuchi; Cast: Eiji Okuda, Akira Emoto, Kôji Kikkawa, Keiko Matsuzaka, Yôsuke Saitô, Reiko Kusamura, Yûya Takayama, Shigehiro Yamaguchi, Reina Fujie, Yoneko Matsukane, Tan Nhuong, Lan Huong, Tan Hanh.

Film screened at the Montreal World Film Festival on August 29th, 2015 (Cinema Quartier Latin 12, 21h30 – the theatre was half full) as part of the “Focus on World Cinema” segment.

For more information you can visit the following websites:

Blowing in the wind of Vietnam © 2015「Blowing in the wind of Vietnam」Production Committee.

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