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Aug 10, 2023 / 14:20

Cannes winning film to hit big screens nationwide

The director said Vietnam is an endless source of inspiration, and he will always make movies about his country of birth.

Cannes-awarded Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Ben Trong Vo Ken Vang) by director Pham Thien An will be released in Vietnam on August 11, three months after it won the "Camera d'Or" award at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival.  

Passion for cinema

The film tells the story of Thien, who brings her sister-in-law's body back to her hometown for burial after a car accident. Her five-year-old son Dao miraculously survived. Thien must search for Dao's father, who has been missing for many years, to return the boy to him. On the journey to find Dao's father, Thien confronts the past and reflects on life, faith, and reason. The movie also brought to the screen many breathtaking landscapes of Vietnam.

 A scene in the film Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell.

"The yellow cocoon is like the cover of people in society. It is a vicious circle of money and fame. The capsule inside is like a person's soul," Thien An explained about the movie's title.

Thien's journey in the movie is not only about moving geographically but also thinking about the core values of life. It is what we live for and what is the purpose of life.

Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell has a strong connection to the director's own life. From the movie to the behind-the-scenes, Thien An also went through similar searches. This is what makes it interesting.

It is a huge risk to start filming on a low budget. It took 110 days in stages, from 2020 to 2022, to make the film.

Thien An said that usually, a film has to secure 80-90% of the budget before it can be produced. However, he worked on the Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell project for three years when he only had 20-30% of the required funding. Despite the challenges, the director was determined to finish and submit the film to the Cannes Film Festival.

 Director Pham Thien An at the shooting location. Photo courtesy of Pham Thien An

The reason for An's assertiveness is that the film crew consists of actors of different ages. If they had chosen to wait for more funding, younger actors would have grown up, while older actors might have had health problems in addition to background, color, and lighting flaws.

Thien An believed that money is not as important as the will, combined with the belief that "I will do it". Especially the scenes shot under difficult conditions brought more unexpected effects.

Inspired by the people around him, An is making the movie to tell a story about Vietnam and the Vietnamese characters he knows.

Thien An said that Vietnam is an endless source of inspiration. He reiterated that he would always make movies about Vietnam.

The film has no limits

The movie depicted Vietnam's countryside and mountains with minimal backgrounds and installations. As a result, Thien An's film has received many compliments from critics.

Mubi, a classic film screening platform, praised Pham Thien An's film as an enchanting epic. Veteran Variety writer Guy Lodge calls the success of Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell the most brilliant and remarkable in the history of the Cannes Film Festival.

The French press also had nothing but praise for Thien An and the movie. The daily Libération likened Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell to an epic poem worth contemplating in rural Vietnam, while The Daily Screen's information page gushed: "Pham Thien An knows exactly what he needs to capture to tell the story to the audience."

 Film directors Pham Thien An (L) and Tran Anh Hung at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, photographed by juror Anais Demoustier.

Gavroche, a French magazine in Thailand, says it has always been challenging for young filmmakers to compete in Cannes. However, Pham Thien An has become one of Cannes' best finds. The author of the article believes that with the "Camera d'Or" award, Pham Thien An's talent will grow strong in the future.

Vietnamese-born French film director Tran Anh Hung, who won the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023 for The Pot-au-Feu (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant), said the screening of An's film in Vietnam was an important event and a great encouragement.

"This is a valuable production," Hung said. "The film premiered at the same time as the screening of mine at the Cannes Film Festival, so we have yet to see each other's films."

Interestingly, Tran Anh Hung won "Camera d'Or" award for The Scent of Green Papaya in 1993. Thirty years later, another director of Vietnamese descent won the same prize.  

For Pham Thien An, cinema has no limits, and he can fully play with emotions, space, and time. In particular, An says that cinema is also a free material for him to convey his concerns.

By using slow cinema (slow in tempo, plot, actors, even without a climax), the 34-year-old director is sure that the movie will be received differently by audiences in Vietnam.

"I just hope that people will open their minds to my work. I didn't expect too much because I knew the movie would be hard to understand."

According to critic Le Hong Lam, the movie has much to offer, but it's a challenge for audiences to sit through for three hours. Normally, only blockbusters like Avengers can do that.

The movie will be released in Vietnam on August 11 and France on September 13.