Berlinale Encounters: An exciting new cinematic voice from Vietnam: About Le Baos movie VI/TASTE.

VI/TASTE by LE BAO. —

We are in gloomy, bare corrugated iron huts in Saigon, Vietnam. Hardly any sunlight penetrates in, everything is sparse, barely furnished, the press release speaks of the “slums” of Ho Chi Minh City, as Saigon has been officially called since reunification in 1976. I don’t know whether the Vietnamese officials would also speak of slums, but you can see poor corrugated iron huts outside of the modern and quite affluent-looking downtown Saigon. Bassley (Olegunleko Ezekiel Gbenga) is an immigrant from Nigeria. We only slowly learn a handful of details from his biography. First of all, we suspect that Vietnam is not necessarily the typical country to which people from Nigeria emigrate. Then we learn that he has a son in his home country with whom he occasionally communicates a little via video call. We learn that his contract with a football club in Saigon was terminated after an injury. “I couldn’t keep you on the team. It was a tough decision, ” said his coach. And now he moves into the corrugated iron hut of four middle-aged Vietnamese women. Their everyday life now consists of cooking, eating, cleaning, sleeping, tailoring – and having sex with Bassley. There is hardly any talk, everyone is silent – and there are a few things that always play a role that is difficult to decipher: a hot air balloon, a giant swordfish.

VI / TASTE is the first feature film by the young Vietnamese director Lê Bảo, who grew up in a simple tin shack in Saigon. He encountered cinema by watching foreign films on a laptop. He began making his first simple short films, all of which were set in the area where he grew up. VI / TASTE was finally created in those places with lots of amateur actors. Given this career, his debut film is an astonishingly elaborate, artificial, difficult to access work. I would have guessed that it came from someone who would have attended ambitious, western art schools.

Lê Bảo explains how his film was made: “The film consists of scenes, moments, vivid sketches – it’s a series of interconnected vignettes strung together and finally what appears on screen looks like a cross between keen-eyed observation and a scripted, carefully choreographed dream. ” The director explains that there is definitely an African emigrant community in Saigon. His film lives from rhythm, he explains: “Rhythm is a characteristic part of my visual language. When I imagine a specific image, it means I’m creating a tangible interaction.“

Lê Bảo’s film is an unruly work that is not pleasing for a second and that only frees itself a little from the dirty confines and darkness of the corrugated iron huts in the last third. The film tells of globalization and emigration, of isolation and being lost, of the loss of roots and of defenselessness. No, actually it doesn’t tell about it, it scratches these topics, it suggests them, it tries to play with them, it comes across them. This disorientation into which the director forces the viewer corresponds to the disorientation in which the protagonist finds himself. It is indeed visionary, dreamlike and uncompromising and of a directness that is seldom seen in cinema. And Lê Bảo also manages to give Vietnamese cinema, which is largely unknown in the West, a surprising, unfamiliar voice.

CREW

Directed byLê Bảo
CameraVinh Phúc Nguyễn
EditingLee Chatametikool
Sound DesignVincent Villa
SoundHieu To

CAST

Olegunleko Ezekiel Gbenga (Bassley), Thi Minh Nga Khuong (Mien), Thi Dung Le (Trang), Thi Cam Xuan Nguyen (Hanh), Thi Tham Thin Vu (Thuong)

Taste“ (Vị) by Lê Bảo has won the Special Jury Award at Berlinale Encounters.

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