Summary:  DI is a 13-year-old girl living in a village lost in the mist of North Vietnamese mountains. She is fortunate in that she is part of the first generation of kids whom have the opportunity to have access to education, but she must convince her parents that studying is not a waste of time and money. If she can’t achieve this challenge, she would be trapped in the village her entire life, “just like a frog in a well”. DI belongs to the Hmong ethnic minority, where traditionally women get married very young, some of them from the early age of 12. In this society, marriage is linked to a very particular and controversial tradition: the “bride-kidnapping”. When a boy is interested in a girl, he organizes her kidnapping before forcing her back to his own home. In some occasions this process turns pretty dangerous and dark. When DI enters puberty, her personality has changed drastically: the carefree little girl has turned into an impetuous, hypersensitive teenager. She often has arguments with her mother who is trying to forbid her to have reckless relationships. Her mother worries that her daughter could be harmed or mistreated and won’t have enough maturity to handle the situation. On the Lunar New Year’s Eve, when DI’s parents come back home after celebrating, the house is silent and empty: DI has disappeared. Her mother broke in tears realising that her daughter had been kidnapped: this may signify the end of DI’s childhood and the beginning of her life as a woman.

Year: 2021

Cinema Release Dates:  TBA

VOD Release Dates: TBA

Country: Vietnam

Director: Ha Le Diem

Screenwriter: Nil

Cast: Nil

Running Time: 81 mins

Classification: TBC


David Griffiths’ Children Of The Mist Review:

I don’t think in all of my years of being a film lover that I have ever had a documentary jolt and jar me the way that Children Of The Mist did. This doco lulled me into a false sense of security and then delivered a moment so shocking and emotionally gut-wrenching that I think it will stay with me forever.

Directed by Ha Le Diem (Beautiful Bed) the doco follows the life of 13-year-old Di who lives in a small village in the Northern Highlands of Vietnam. In the beginning the film follows her everyday life – looking at what it is like at school and how she helps her parents on their farm. However, all throughout this time we see her and her friends joking about the fact that young girls are often ‘kidnapped’ and forced into marriage, in fact it is something that actually happened to Di’s own sister.

That turns into a dark foreshadowing of the second part of the doco. Early on it is easy to see that Di is friendly and flirty, yet very immature and unaware when it comes to men and boys. That friendly and flirty online nature soon turns sinister when a boy she has been chatting to online turns up during the New Year’s celebration and Di disappears.

There is simply no way to prepare yourself for the harsh moments of reality that you will see in the second half of this doco. In the best half at times it feels like you are watching the Vietnamese version of Big Brother set in a small village.

Diem shoots this like a fly-on-the-wall documentary and for the most part for the first half we see Di’s parents getting drunk with their friends while Di plays with her friends and talks about her friends. Then everything begins to fall away, we witness fights between Di and her mother and we see the frustration that her mother must endure with a husband that she claims is constantly drunk.

You are pulled into this world by the natural style of filmmaking that Diem brings to the screen and perhaps that is why the second half of this doco becomes so heart-breaking to watch. I won’t spoil what happens in the closing stages of this doco but I will warn you that it is at times very difficult to watch. I found myself at times wanting to look away but so invested in her story that I had to keep watching to see what happened to her.

There are ten minutes of this documentary where I finally learnt what it means to watch something with your heart in your mouth. The realisation hits you like a sledgehammer when you finally come to terms with the fact that this is not manufactured Hollywood suspense that you are watching and that this is real life and somebody is actually going through the worst moment of their life while you watch on.

At times this is a very difficult doco to watch but at the same time it is a very important doco as well. If nothing else it will make you feel pleased that you live in a country like Australia where these kinds of barbaric things occur. Like I said it is not easy to watch but the payoff is certainly worth it.

Dave’s rating Out Of 5

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