DIRECTOR: BUI THAC CHUYEN STARRING: JULIET BAO NGOC DOLING, PHUONG ANH DAO, LE CONG HOANG, QUANG TUAN, HANH THUY RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 57 MINUTES
Set in Thom Rom, a poor coastal village in South Vietnam, the film centres on three women, whose love lives are unusual and unique to their nature. Their story is the contrast between the unsettling sentiments beneath and the pretentious peacefulness on the surface.
Glorious Ashes is the International Feature submission for Vietnam. Set in a small coastal village in South Vietnam, the story revolves around two women: Hau and Nhan. After an unintentional pregnancy, Hau and Doung are forced to get married, and while Hau starts off her relationship super hopeful and optimistic, it slowly begins to fade as her husband becomes more and more absent, spending his time working in a small shack in the middle of the ocean for weeks at a time. The reason for this though, is that Doung is still enamoured with his childhood sweetheart, Nhan, who just got married to Tam, a ceramic worker.
Hau and Nhan both get pregnant at the same time and they both have baby girls. Since their village is extremely small, the two married couples are constantly bumping into one another as they take care of the various chores along the river, while raising their girls. As the years go by, Tam and Nhan are seemingly happy together, while Doung shows no interest in Hau at all, remaining silent throughout most conversations, drinking and being completely absent despite being in the same room as her. Hau feels that Nhan is superior to her in every possible way, and begins to resent her. But with life, things never go as planned, and one tragic event changes the entire dynamic between these two married couples.
Glorious Ashes focuses on a part of the world where the traditional ways of life continue to dominate the people who inhabit these villages. It’s a life of farming, fishing, living off the land, with an intense sense of community. But, it’s also a society where men are in control of their wives. Hau and Nhan are bound by their husbands. They feel that they have to be loyal, faithful, respectful, despite yearning for love and affection which they just don’t receive. They see other women in their town suffocating for decades in unloving relationships yet they cling to their neglectful, abusive men. They know they deserve better, but they just can’t let go.
The film is a deeply heartbreaking tale of women stuck in the past and unable to move forward. It’s a troubling story watching women destroy their lives year after year optimistic for a change but never getting it. Hau and Nhan try to navigate as best as possible with the constraints placed on them. They look for ways to heal, to understand their sadness, rage and loneliness. But in time hope fades. They’re drained from trying. And all that is left is to succumb to the life that they were given.
If only the men in their lives would dissipate in the flames. Instead, they’re left picking up the ashes from their mistakes.