More than Pho. Czech Vietnam

The Vietnamese are the third most numerous national group in the Czech Republic. The first wave of immigration came already before the revolutionary year of 1989; since then, more Vietnamese have been coming to the Czech Republic, with the youngest generation already being born here. What was it really like for the Vietnamese to live in the Czech Republic ten years ago and what is it like today? Do young Vietnamese deem the Czech Republic their home or do they long to return to their “homeland“? These and other themes are reflected in a serious and fun way in the films by Czech and Vietnamese directors in our current Curated Program.

Young filmmaker and dancer Dužan Duong made his mark already by his playful autobiographic debut Mat goc about two brothers’ journey to Vietnam; to one of them, it will become an occasion to better understand his origins and ultimately even himself; as to the viewers, it will let them look behind the wall of stereotypes. Similar motives are also addressed in Duong’s next film Bo Hai, one of last year’s most successful short Czech films; it was screened at Ji.hlava IDFF, won the Golden Kingfisher Award for the best student film at Finále Plzeň Film Festival and was nominated for the Czech Lion Award in the student film category as well as for the Czech Film Critics Award. Stylized as comedy, the generational account of a young man who helps his father at a convenience store with slight reluctance even though he would rather hang out with friends is a reflection on the young Vietnamese’ relationship to the Czech Republic and the land of their origin, their parents and traditions.

Dužan Duong was also one of the protagonists in Lukáš Kokeš’s V.I.P. /Vietnamese Important People, a stylized documentary portrait of three Czech Vietnamese in their twenties seeking their identity and struggling with racial prejudice related to professional success.

Another perspective on the coexistence of Czechs and the Vietnamese is shown in the animated film The Little One directed by Diana Cam Van Nguyen, student of Prague’s FAMU. It tells the story of Rong, a little Vietnamese girl who is being mocked at school for being different, and whose best friend is a goldfish. However, eventually, “little one” grows up, becomes a “big one” and is about to make a crucial life decision...

The situation of Czech Vietnamese from ten years ago was captured by Martin Ryšavý in his two films made in 2009. Country of Dreams depicts the issues experienced by Vietnamese immigrants in unknown Czech Republic, which they were told was a “promised land”, however, reality was a little different. The film won the Pavel Koutecký Award in 2010. Bananas Kids looks at the Vietnamese community from a children’s perspective and gives voice to elementary and high school students as well as students and graduates of Czech universities.

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