A documentary on a nine-year-old boy, who has exceptional survival instincts, being screened at Ngoc Khanh and Tan Son Nhat theatres in Ha Noi and HCM City, respectively, is creating waves at the box office.
The film titled Lua Thien Nhan (Thien Nhan's Fire) has been showing since October 15.
Though the ticket is priced at VND70,000 (US$3), which is nearly double that of a new Hollywood film, the shows have always been sold out. The Platinum Cineplex distributor has decided to screen the documentary at its cinema chains in the two cities.
The story, which is full of both sadness and happiness of a boy abandoned in a deserted garden for three days after birth. He lost a leg and his private parts as ants swarm over his body. The little boy began to cry, drawing the attention of some people who rescued him.
Moved by his incredible survival instincts, Tran Mai Anh, a young mother of two in Ha Noi, adopted him when he was two years old. With him, she has visited many surgeons who perform reconstructive surgeries in Viet Nam and abroad, including Italy and the United State. His nickname is " Tin soldier".
Director Dang Hong Giang shares the three-year process of making the documentary.
What do you think about the fact that audiences have been queuing up to buy tickets to see the documentary in the last few weeks?
The audience's reaction can be considered as my film's success. However, I'm waiting for another social effect with the message: let us see the documentary to share a happy life, humanity and love. After watching the film, we may not be able to help one another immediately. But at least in our day-to-day behaviour, we may be more gentle, and tolerant towards one another.
Many teachers, after watching the film, called me and said they wanted to watch the documentary with more of their students. A teacher told me that watching the film was worth more than dozens of lessons in class. She might be exaggerating, but I think it may have some effect on students thanks to the bravery and energy of little Thien Nhan.
During the three-year period, the foster mother lost her temper with you on numerous occasions because you re-shot the scene again and again, which was tiring. What urged you to complete your work?
I saw it as a beautiful story. In the context of our complicated society, I wanted to introduce this story to many people. The story about Mai Anh, Thien Nhan, Greig Craft (Nhan's foster dad) and Dr Roberto de Castro itself a beautiful story. The documentary doesn't make it more beautiful. The duty of a film maker strengthened my belief to complete the story that surely affects our society in a positive way.
What do you think about the documentary's soul – little Thien Nhan?
I've done many documentaries for HCM City Television, and I've met a lot of characters. But I've seen no one like Thien Nhan. During the shooting, we shared common feelings of love and adoration. He acted naturally, ignoring the presence of the film crew. His energetic actions were the soul of the documentary. There is no sadness and tears even though his early childhood is not as smooth as those of the other children. His energy moved the audience, made them cry. Besides, Anh and Craft answered interviews very naturally.
Why did foreign colleagues from New York City Independent Film Festival tell you to revise the work?
They advised me to condense the documentary because when I brought it to the screen at the New York City Independent Film Festival last year, it was 86 minutes long. I cut some redundant details and shortened it to 77 minutes. Besides, I also had to design sounds and background in some scenes, which were not professional enough. I had shot some scenes with a travel camera and mobiphone, and needed experts in the field to edit them to qualify them for the big screen. — VNS