Award-winning documentary about Vietnamese transgender woman to screen in Vietnam

By An Nguyen   September 30, 2018 | 10:28 am GMT+7
Finding Phong tells the compelling story of Vietnamese girl born as a boy trying to find herself through biological transformation.

The documentary is a collaboration betwen Tran Phuong Thao, a Vietnamese independent director and producer and Swann Dubus, a French cinematographer and film director based in Vietnam.

The film is about Phong - a young man born in Quang Ngai city in central Vietnam, who goes to Hanoi and becomes a design artist at the Thang Long Puppet Theater. Since a child he has felt that he is a woman trapped in a man’s body, and it is only in the capital city that he discovers there are others like him. Phong is torn between secret desires to be who he really is and guilt associated with that identity in terms of his family and society at large.

A couple of years later, his friend from the U.S., Gerry advises him to go to Thailand for a sex reassignment surgery. While in this foreign country, Phong is shocked to witness a completely different dynamic in the transgender community.

Thailand transgenders are completely content with themselves and live in harmony with the people around them. Yet many of them have their share of complicated issues in their private lives, hidden away from the naked eye. Upon returning to Vietnam, Phong continues to face challenges from his family, society and his newly acquired body.

The documentary poster. Photo courtesy of IMDb

The documentary poster. Photo courtesy of IMDb

In addition to directors’ on-the-scene filming, the documentary also has many scenes recorded by Phong himself. The personal scenes include monologues, everyday activities of the character, and how others behave around Phong and to his new biological identity. The directors said that they wanted to get scenes that cannot be captured by cameramen through traditional shooting.

Sharing their thoughts with VnExpress, the two directors said: Transgender people in Vietnam are victims of prejudices that render them marginalized. Some make it to success as singers and models, while the majority of them are amateur performers at public fairs or sell their bodies for sex. Social discrimination rips them off opportunities to work at other industries. Transgenders’ sexual identities are often what society chooses to see them. However, changing one’s sex is fundamentally a question of gender identity. Transgender people care about who they are when they stand in front their loved ones.

By portraying the psychological impacts of a transgender person throughout the entire, lengthy process of self-discovery, the filmmakers hope the audience can get insights into the problems that face such people and see a transgender person as a complete citizen rather than deviants to be marginalized.

The documentary, completed in 2014, has won several, including the 2015 Grand Prix at the Jean Rouch International Film Festival in Paris, and the 2016 Viet Film Fest in Los Angeles (U.S.). The 92-minute film also brought home the "Best Picture" award at the 2016 LGBT International Film Festival in Greece.

HCMC residents will get to watch this internationally acclaimed documentary on October 2.

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