‘Cu Li Never Cries’, a metaphor on the passage of time with which Phḁm Ngọc Lân debuts at the Festival


• This first feature film by the Vietnamese director has come to the 23FICLPGC after winning the GWFF Best First Feature Award at the Berlinale

• Nghiêm Quynh Trang, the film’s producer, will attend today’s screening at Cine Yelmo Las Arenas at 6 p.m. to talk about it with the audience

• The film, which is currently competing for this edition’s Golden Lady Harimaguada, will be screened again tomorrow, April 27

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Friday, April 26, 2024. Nostalgia for times past, intergenerational differences and the inevitable “flow of life” weave the plot of Vietnamese director Phḁm Ngọc Lân’s first feature film. Entitled Cu Li Never Cries (Vietnam, Singapore, France, Philippines, Norway, 2024, 92 min.), this work, winner of the GWFF Best First Feature Award at the Berlinale, has now arrived at the 23rd Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival to compete for its Golden Lady Harimaguada.

Its producer and co-screenwriter, Nghiêm Quynh Trang, will be the one who will share the ins and outs of the film with the audience attending the screening at 6:00 p.m. this Friday afternoon, April 26, at Cine Yelmo Las Arenas. In addition, the 23FICLPGC has scheduled for tomorrow, April 27, a last screening of this feature film in which we discover the story of Mrs. Nguyen and her pregnant niece, who is hastily entering into marriage.

Fearing she will repeat her own life mistakes, Mrs. Nguyen decides to go on a journey to revisit her memories, invoking Vietnam’s rich past. She will do so accompanied by a very special creature who comes into her life after returning from Germany with her husband’s ashes: a cu li. It is a small primate typical of the Asian country whom the director deliberately decided to ‘cast’. “We wanted a small animal typical of Vietnam to accompany the main character during her stay in Europe that would then return to Vietnam as she did, as a metaphor for her own life,” explained Nghiêm Quynh Trang.

Cu li’s is just one of the many intended parallels that make up the film, which also addresses intergenerational differences or elderly people’s perception of the passage of time after having reached their vital zenith. All those elements  were intertwined in a co-writing process that began in 2016, when the director and the producer met for the first time.

Despite living in different countries, Phḁm Ngọc Lân and Nghiêm Quynh Trang decided to embark together on this project. Thus, they divided the story into different parts which came to life from interesting readings and experiences that served them as inspiration. “We’d talk about them and then we’d add the different topics that led to the main story.”

The co-writer said she really enjoyed the writing process, as well as the production one, whose responsibility fell to her almost by chance, when she began to get more and more involved in the different scenes they were filming, in which she was also in charge of the wardrobe. “I was learning as I went along, solving problems, because shooting a film is solving problems,” she explained before revealing that, among other ups and downs, they had to readjust the entire shooting schedule because of the accident suffered by two of the actors on the first day.

As for the final result, Nghiêm Quynh Trang was proud to have gone “further” than she and the director expected with Cu Li Never Cries. The road to finish this work has not been easy, especially when they also intend to share and preserve their country’s culture and scenic beauty with it. Since they did not even have funds when they were about to start the shooting, Phḁm Ngọc Lân decided to make three other works that ended up being selected in film events such as the Berlinale. “This gave him such a good reputation” that it translated into finding support to complete their project, which coincidentally won the GWFF Best First Feature Award at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival.

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