My Journey of emotions - Vu Thanh Long

Vu Thanh Long

Away from the crowd, away from the noise, away from the stress of work, I have spent a wonderful time at Neemrana – a beautiful old Fort 120 kms from Delhi – where Films of Desire was taking place. Not being a filmmaker who brought his work, I could totally be a viewer with all the freedom to pick up what to see. Films of Desire was not just a film festival but a chance for people who are working in completely different areas, but on the same theme, sexuality, to meet and get to know the work of each other and discuss ideas. The films were all great, they brought to me all kinds of feeling, introduced me to different cultures’ point of view in regard to relationships, love, sex, and so on. There are so many things I remember from the event, but most of all are the films by Victric Thng, Nia Dinata, and Royston Tan. 

First on the list for me is Locust by Victric Thng. The film was amazingly short – 4 minutes. Locust was just simply amazing; it kept me holding my breath from the beginning until the end. Lost in the crowd, there two young men hugging, just forgetting about the noisy world around and sharing a moment of love. Just within four minutes, Locust brings a person from the sweetest of feelings to the moment of one’s heart being broken. I wish I understood Cantonese just to taste the mood of the film in the original. Everybody will find the sentiment shown in Locustsomewhere back in their own memory. Love was never mentioned in the whole film, but everything was covered with love, with all the tenderness and sadness love can bring. No wonder Locust is a multi-award winning film from festival to festival

Now for the next one I really liked, Nia Dinata’s film. On the bus to Neemrana, I had a few conversations with Nia Dinata, a film maker from Indonesia, and got introduced to her film Love for Share. A man with more than one wife, what a good idea, I should go to Indonesia – that was my first funny thought, and I thought about what I have known about polygamy in Vietnam. Later, my decision to watch Love for Share turned out to be a great choice. I’m not a ‘film person’ to say how cinematically it was filmed; but in my eyes, it is absolutely a beautifully shot movie. Three separate stories, three women from different classes of society, share the same tragedy – sharing the husband with some other women. The first story happened in a high-class family. Salma, an educated woman, got surprised, angry, and then finally accepted the fact that her husband had four wives. The second story was about Siti, whose face I can recognize somewhere from MTV, a young rural woman tricked by a driver to become his third wife. And the last story deals with Ming, a waitress at a roast duck restaurant who later became the owner’s second wife in exchange for money and housing. These three women, either living their lives with acceptance or desperately struggling for freedom, found their own solutions later on and did not let themselves become victims to the situation. Nia, the director, then told the story about the making of Love for Share, about how she did all the visiting and interviews with individuals who are living with polygamy, and how she developed those real stories into one single film script. All of these made me completely admire this working-mother small Indonesian filmmaker.

At the closing ceremony, a hilarious short film Cut from Royston Tan, one of Time Magazine’s 20 Asian heroes under the age of 40. Cut was a hugely entertaining yet bitter look at censorship in Singapore. I could not stop laughing with all the cut listings and parodies. That was so true, and so … Singaporean. Royston is a hero! I just wish there will be a Vietnamese version of Cutsomeday.

Victric Thng

4 minutes / Cantonese with English subtitles / 2003 / Singapore

A momentary encounter evokes both a sense of fondness and bitterness of the heart. Moving and lyrical, the film’s backdrop of Hong Kong heightens the emotive narration. A poignant, poetic film about memory and longing


Love for Share
Nia Dinata

120 minutes / Bahasa Indonesia with English subtitles / 2006 / Indonesia

The film is an intriguing portrait of polygamous lifestyles in different classes and ethnic backgrounds in contemporary Jakarta. A gynaecologist, Salma, discovers, to her shock, that her husband has taken a second wife. Salma shuts her world; she lives in denial. Until one day, her husband gets a heart attack and become bed ridden. Salma has to face the other wives on a regular basis since all the wives thrive to offer attention for the sick man. Siti, a country girl, realises too late that her uncle, who has moved her to Jakarta, promising to send her to beauty school, has other intentions. She finds herself living in a polygamous household of her own uncle. The notion of three women living under one roof and serving one husband itself constantly disturbs her. Her hope for survival rests in her growing intimacy with one of his other wives. Ming, a waitress, contrives to become her Catholic boss’ second wife. The lives of these three women from three different social classes and ethnic backgrounds intersect as the similarities in their stories are revealed. The film deals with polygamy: sharing a husband’s love and attention with several other women. The film reveals their troubles and internal conflicts. In their course of finding the answers to their problems, sometimes they meet with each other without even realising that they share a similar story.

Vu Thanh Long is a young researcher at the Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS), Hanoi – Vietnam. His work is mainly on HIV/AIDS, Sexuality and Reproductive Health.