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Vietnamese Director Makes Feature Film Debut With 'Pearls of the Far East'

Minh Ngoc Nguyen in 'Pearls of the Far East'
Minh Ngoc Nguyen in 'Pearls of the Far East'

Nuance and implication take on a special meaning in the new movie “Pearls of the Far East,” the feature film debut by 34-year-old Vietnamese director, Cuong Ngo. It is a collection of seven short stories about love, desire and loss as seen through the eyes of Vietnamese women.

Director Ngo was inspired by a series of award-winning narratives written by a Los Angeles-based friend. “When I read the stories I imagined the characters” Ngo said. The movie uses a minimum of dialogue which Ngo acknowledged is deliberate “to invite the audience into the story.”

Different stages of love are portrayed through innocence, unfilled expectations, mysterious fantasy and loneliness. The goal was “to capture the moment of each character in different stages from childhood to old age.,“ Ngo said. “This film is like my desire of utopia of Vietnam after the war,” which Ngo suggested is “the language of beauty to reflect what I dream of.”

Particularly noteworthy is the story “Awakening” about a middle-aged woman who reminisces about her wedding gown designs and the failure to ever wear one for herself. Another called “Time” concerns an actress past her prime and suffering the loss of public adoration, featuring Vietnamese-American actress Kieu Chinh.

Ngo grew up in Vietnam, attended film school in Canada and has lived in the United States. Ngo describes the music as a “marriage of the West and the East, like a fusion between two cultures.” Since the characters do most of their acting through gesture and facial expression, Ngo said the film score serves “as a universal language so the audience around the world can understand what the stories are about instead of listening to the dialogue in Vietnamese.”

Both the music and lush on-location cinematography highlighting some of Vietnam’s most beautiful natural settings have already garnered awards. “Pearls of the Far East” had its world premier in Toronto last November and has since picked up “Best Cinematography” and “Best Music” at the California Independent Film Festival in San Francisco.

The film is scheduled to be shown in Vietnam this month on March 8, International Women’s Day.