The Dust of Modern Life (Pa Va Hêng), dir. Franziska von Stenglin, Germany / France 2021, 81 min., Sedang / Vietnamese with English subtitles
Each year, Liêm and his friends leave their homes in the Highlands of Vietnam to embrace the forest, aiming to maintain the ancient traditions passed down to them by their forebears. However, both these traditions and the forest itself are slowly disappearing – and rather than the monkeys and wild game hunted by their ancestors, the young men instead trap and eat rats, frogs and tadpoles.
Modernisation skirts the edges of Franziska von Stenglin’s debut feature, which juxtaposes the men’s smartphones with the hunter-gatherer traditions handed down through generations. And yet by documenting their experiences in the forest on their mobile phone cameras, they’re preserving their ancient traditions in what is merely the latest evolution of ethnography.
Shooting on 16mm, cinematographer Lucie Baudinaud recalls the traditions of early ethnographic cinema – but The Dust of Modern Life ultimately unfolds as a fever dream, exploring the unusual relationships between the travellers as they journey deep into nature.
This UK premiere is followed by a Q&A with director Franziska von Stenglin, hosted by Mads Mikkelsen, Head of Programme of CPH:DOX.
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