Children of the Mist
Ha Le Diem (director) & Dubus Swann (producer/editor)
In the misty mountains of North Vietnam, a teenage Hmong girl walks the thin line between childhood and becoming an adult. Over a period of two years, girls in her minority are forced to lose their innocence, discover the traps of seduction, or fight for their independence.
Children of the Mist follows the story of Di, a 13-year- old Hmong girl about to face the destiny of many teenage girls of her ethnic group. Despite of a precarious financial situation and conflicts between her parents, DI is a happy kid living in the wild, foraging plants around and playing happily in the majestic valley with other kids of her village Di is fortunate in that she belongs to the first generation of kids in the village whom have the opportunity to continue studying into high school. Her mother didn’t have this chance. She is now 34 years old, already a grandmother, illiterate and speaking very few Vietnamese language. If the teachers encourage their students to stay in school as long as possible to hope for a better future, most of the parents think studying is just a loss of labour force as their children can’t work in the fields while attending school. When Di enter puberty, her personality has changed drastically. The carefree little girl turned into an impetuous hypersensitive teenager spending hours chatting on Facebook with boys. She even had a flirt fling with a boy but she was dumped within a short period. The heartache has aggravated her impulsive personality. She often has arguments with her mother who is trying to forbid her to have reckless relations with boys. She fears that her daughter could be forced in a relationship and won’t have enough maturity to handle the situation. When Di turns 14-years-old, she indisputably became one of the most beautiful girls in the valley. In many occasions she is acting carelessly, spending more and more time outside having some fun with friends and putting her at risk. On the Lunar New Year’s Eve, she is both scared and excited. While Di is preparing to go to a street fair, her mother tells her that she should stay home as this day is the most dangerous of the year for a girl that doesn’t wish to be kidnapped. Of course, Di doesn’t listen to this advice. When Di’s parents come back home after celebrating the New Year at some friend's place, the house is silent and empty: Di has disappeared. Her mother broke in tears realizing that her daughter had been kidnapped: this may signify the end of Di's childhood and beginning of her life as a woman...
Ha Le Diem
Ha Le Diem was born in 1991 to the Tay community, an ethnic group in Northeast Vietnam. She left her hometown to study Journalism at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, from which she graduated in 2013. After joining a film-making workshop at TPD, a center that supports young cinematic talents, she begins to devote her time to making documentary. Her short doc My Son Goes to School, about a HIV-positive mother living in an isolated mountain village caring for her young son, won the Silver Kite Award of the Vietnamese Cinema Association. In 2017, she co-founded “Our stories”, a project that allows artists to work with 15 Hmong youths in the Ma Tra commune focusing on skill training to let them tell their stories through painting, film-making, and photography. She is now making her first feature length documentary on the life of young Hmong girls in Sapa.
After a Master of Literature, Swann Dubus (1977) completed a PhD about intimacy in cinema at Paris III University in 2006. At the same time, he worked as a DoP, editor and directed several documentary features both in Europe, Africa and Asia. Since 2007, he is living and working in Hanoi (Vietnam).