HA NOI — The first documentary film about lesbian communities in Viet Nam titled Duong Nao Di Toi Bien (Which Way to the Sea) has been screened at the second ASEAN Lifescape Festival in Thailand.
However, the 35-minute documentary, produced by the Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents (CSAGA) hadn't been presented widely at home because sexual issues were not talked about openly in Vietnamese society, said Nguyen Van Anh, director of the centre.
The piece features the lives of four lesbian couples who represent lesbian communities in three regions in Viet Nam. It also explores how Vietnamese women cope after coming out of the closet.
It was directed by Pham Mai Phuong and Tran Thanh Hien from the Laboratory for Documentary Films and Video Arts in Ha Noi with the aim of creating a more just, correct and sympathetic view on lesbians and the LGBT (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender) community in general, as part of the common effort to protect women, children and vulnerable people in society, Anh said.
"It's part a project to protect lesbians and eradicate discrimination against them," Anh said.
"I have worked with women who are victims of family violence and people trafficking, they don't want to appear in front of the lens and reveal their lives to the public, and nor do lesbian women," she said.
After many conversations, Anh and the two directors convinced the women to take part in the documentary, but had to guarantee their privacy and rights.
The lesbians agreed to participated in the documentary but when it's finished, they don't want to present it widely but in small groups to communicate the situation.
"The 35-minute documentary is a result of many people's enthusiasm and effort," Anh said. "We have respected their private lives and protected their rights."
The documentary describes simply but sincerely the daily lives and the deepest emotions and feelings of lesbian protagonists. They include old photographs and memories that are difficult for outsiders to understand or discover in the first place.
It finishes with the small but simple dreams of lesbian couples that are sometimes difficult to fulfil, such as wearing a wedding dress, owning a house, or simply earning a stable income.
The film was sad, but was twinkling behind the sadness were brave hearts, brave people who dared to face destiny, face society, and find the true happiness that they deserve.
The film was also screened at several universities and NGOs, and many viewers said it had changed their perception of lesbians.
The CSAGA wants to screen it at another film festival abroad but the subjects don't agree, said Anh.
"If the film receives support or accolade, I think it's in recognition of the effort to change society's prejudice, and if the film receives any awards, it's in honour of the brave figures," she said.
Writer Van Gia, from the Ha Noi University of Culture's and Criticism, where the documentary was screened, also shared his sympathy and open attitude to the LGBT community with students.
He called on his students – future writers of the country – and society in general to have an open and unprejudice view on the community.
"Anh is right not to show the film on television or the press to protect the characters," he said.
"It's the first documentary featuring the true lives of lesbians in this country and I hope that one day it will be presented to the public. However, to reach that day, society needs to change its attitude to the issue." — VNS