Đường Về (A Way Home) by filmmaker Tạ Quỳnh Tư has won the Impressive Documentary award at VTV Awards 2019 in Hà Nội.
The film is a story of two mothers whose children died during war time and the search for their remains.
Tư, 39 graduated from Hà Nội Theatre and Cinema College. He works at VTV’s Documentary and Reportage Centre. Another of his documentaries, Hai Đứa Trẻ (Two Children), won Best Documentary and Best Director at the Golden Kite Awards in 2017.
Nguyễn Trang, a VTV online reporter, interviews the filmmaker.
Filmmaker Tạ Quỳnh Tư. Photo congluan.vn
What motivated you and your team to make the film on finding a martyr's tomb?
I have a relative who died in war but their remains have not been found.
So, I understand it is an irreplaceable hurt that war martyrs' family encounters. They want a miracle to help them to find the remains.
At first, my crew and I planned to make a film to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of War Invalids and Martyrs Day. We shot footage and collected data for more than two years.
The script was to be a lot of different stories about trying to find the remains of martyrs.
There are few Vietnamese Heroic Mothers who are still alive. Many of them have been lucky enough to find their children's remains but there are also many others who have not. They desperately want to find their children' remains before they die.
While making the film we found a complex situation. Two mothers found their children's remains by mistake because of a misunderstanding from the archives of the Heroic Martyrs.
I think finding a martyr's remains is like a jigsaw puzzle. If a piece is missing, even a small one, we can't complete the picture.
This topic is not new, did that make creating the film more difficult?
We were not pressured to find something new in the old topic. But I wanted to tell a story that was very personal.
The biggest difficulty was choosing a story which wouldn't overlap with other documentaries.
We chose a real story that was going on to film. We followed the story's development.
Documentaries on history or science need intensive research to learn the roots of the issue. The most important thing about making a documentary on human life is that the filmmakers follows, or even lives with the characters.
It is difficult for the crew to get closer to the characters and make them feel comfortable.
When they know us well they will not hesitate to tell us their story and express their feelings.
Time is very important for us to travel with the characters' family. Every time I went back to my hometown in northern province of Nam Định I passed by Ninh Bình Province where the characters lived and visited them.
At first, there were misunderstandings that we were hired by one of the two families to make the search difficult for the other family.
What message do you want to convey to the audience?
The journey to find martyrs' remains is a real challenge. According to the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs' statistics, there are more than 200,000 martyrs whose remains have not been found and more than 300,000 graves that lack information.
At the end of the movie, the discussions about finding the remains will surely be unforgettable for each viewer. They feature different emotions of anxiety, torment and uncertainty.
Each family knows how to think for each other, live for each other and sacrifice for a common goal.
I still think about the words of one mother who told the other that "You must keep calm, as not only your children and my children sacrificed, but there are many children in this country devoting their lives for the national independence today."
That is the message the film conveys to families who have not been able to find martyrs' remains.
We hope Đường Về will show the strong bonds and spiritual affection of Vietnamese families.
At the same time, through the film we want all people to join hands in finding the remains of the martyrs aiming at making 'the way home' less arduous. VNS