VNA’s documentary honoured at international film festivals

October, 31/2022 - 17:29
"Walking through the valley of death" chronicles the lives of a number heroin addicts caught in an ever decreasing spiral of drugs, crime and desperation
Family members of the recovering addicts at the New Life Christian Centre. VNA/VNS Photo Kim Anh

HÀ NỘI — A documentary written, produced and directed by the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) has won six awards at international film festivals.

Walking through the valley of death chronicles the lives of a number heroin addicts caught in an ever decreasing spiral of drugs, crime and desperation.

But thanks to an unlikely source, the addicts managed to kick the habit, and slowly rebuild their lives much to the delight of their families who have endured a life of disappointment and anguish.

The 60-minute documentary has been recognised by judges of film festivals in India and Singapore where it has been screened and won top prizes.

Jointly directed by Ngô Kim Anh, Nguyễn Hữu Trung and Paul Kennedy and filmed by young cameraman Hà Văn Quỳnh, Walking through the valley of death follows the lives of a number of addicts living in Hà Nội and Quảng Ninh. For years many of them stooped to new lows in order to feed their addictions.

In this honest and revealing production, they open their hearts to discuss how they brought shame to their families, stealing money set aside to raise their own children to spend on drugs.

With many HIV positive, they struggled to see light at the end of the tunnel, trying and failing over and over again to quit drugs through rehabilitation centres.

Eventually they found salvation through an unlikely source, the power of prayer.

Director Paul Kennedy said: “While it is obviously a great privilege to have our work praised by peers in the film industry, what brings us the most joy is being able to highlight the plight and pain of the addicts featured to an international audience.

“Addiction to hardcore drugs is a huge problem all over the world. And this was our opportunity to shine a positive light on the problem and look at the amazing work carried out to drag people out of their pain and suffering.

“And it’s not just the addicts themselves. It’s also their families and loved-ones who suffer.”

Director Trung said: “The documentary does not focus on drug addiction but emphasises the burning desire to be saved of those who fell into the vicious circle of drugs and crime. Drugs made their desire hopeless and helpless. But a miracle came, saving them and now it’s their turn to save others who had a similar past and share that same burning desire.”

“What’s key in their rehabilitation is the approach taken by the New Life Christian Centre,” Assistant Director Nguyễn Xuân Hưng said.

“Instead of being under lock and key, they were left to their own devices to work on their addiction, channeling support from other addicts in the same situation or former drug users who had managed to get themselves clean.

“It’s their honestly and transparency that has helped to make Walking through the valley of death a success. They and their family members, wives, mothers, and fathers, that are the real stars of our documentary.”

One of the challenges faced by the documentary crew was bringing to life the moments of despair and heartache shared by the addicts.

Director Kennedy said: “Obviously we were unable to recreate some of the more harrowing accounts discussed by the addicts.

“Like the mother talking about how she wished she was a worm so she could crawl into the ground and die, or the addict recounting how he stole money set aside for milk for his new born baby to spend on drugs.

“To bring this to life we experimented and used chalk sketches by traditional Vietnamese artist, Đỗ Đức Khải, and it’s through his talent we were able to create what we have.”

To date, Walking through the valley of death has won film awards at the Knight of the Reel Awards, the Luis Bunuel Memorial Awards, the Gangtok International Film Festival, Virgin Spring Cinefest, and the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival, all in India.

“The movie was really interesting and exciting and it has been a true motivation for other filmmakers across the globe,” wrote the Gangtok International Film Festival organisers.

It also won the Critics’ Choice Award at the World Film Carnival - Singapore, and is currently being considered for more screenings and awards at 10 film festival. Each year the World Film Carnival – Singapore sees hundreds of entries from filmmakers worldwide, including the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, and China among others.

A quote from the World Film Carnival - Singapore says “You have snatched away the Winner position from the crowd of hundreds of promising filmmakers across the globe.

“You carved the rocks to make a sculpture that resembles your achievement. Your hard work really pays off.” VNS

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