Mrs Tu Hau
Decades before Ousmane Sembene, Claire Denis and Abdellatif Kechiche brought their post-colonial experiences to the screen, Vietnamese director Pham Ky Nam was already doing just that.
A graduate of the Ecole Superieure d'Etudes Cinematographiques in Paris in 1955, Nam returned to Vietnam the next year as the country was recovering from its painful but triumphant struggle against the French colonialists in the first Indochina war. He made his mark by co-directing (alongside Nguyen Hong Nghi) Vietnam's first feature film, On the Same River, in 1959. But it was Mrs Tu Hau that sealed his standing as one of the country's finest filmmakers.
What makes the 1963 work a landmark in Vietnamese cinema is Nam's use of a distinct European aesthetic in a film that portrays the struggle against imperialism. Boasting influences of directors such as Jean Renoir, Mrs Tu Hau rises above mere party propaganda by using poetic imagery to chronicle the protagonist's transformation from ordinary villager to revolutionary, martyr and allegorical mother of the nation.
Nearly 40 years after its release, Mrs Tu Hau remains as powerful an artistic and political statement as ever. Apr 22, 2.30pm, HK Arts Centre; Apr 24, 9pm, Space Museum.