Rainy Season (Mua Mua)
- Official Website
- Human Rights, Social Issues, Current Affairs, Investigation, and History
RAINY SEASON is an intimate story about a family's unexpected change of fate, set in the larger context of post-war Vietnam. A rubber tree farming family comes to grips with their changed lives after their youngest son finds a leftover American mortar. With unprecedented access in rural Vietnam -- shot over five years under the radar of the Vietnamese government -- RAINY SEASON captures the land's sumptuous beauty and reveals the sorrows that it harbors.
- Show treatment
RAINY SEASON is about a central Vietnamese family whose seven year-old son finds a live mortar leftover from the "American War" in their rubber tree grove. This small and intimate account is set in a vast historical context. The viewer witnesses what happens on the other side of the gun â€“ a rare view. The film shines a light on the far-reaching effects of war that shatter a family's simple life.
Seven year-old Thien ("Tien") was supposed to be napping with his family in their field shed after lunch. He set off searching for grasshoppers to use for fishing bait, but finds a mortar instead. His mother, Nu, is minding the family buffalo. She thinks Thien is carrying a stick of firewood and smiles at him as he enters the shed. In a few moments there is a huge explosion and the shed is covered with smoke. Nu and the boy's father, Lon, rush to the commune aid station with Thien. With no ambulance service, Thien loses his life while in his mother's arms.
Rainy Season opens two years after the accident. We follow Nu and her family when they meet with aid worker, Chi, over a five-year period. We witness the Hoang's journey as they mend their broken family circle and move through their grief. Rainy Season is important because it show us an aspect of the Vietnam War that is not seen in our media. Poor civilians suffer the brunt of all wars, both during and after. We hear the voices of affected Vietnamese civilians, a point of view not seen since Peter Davis' Oscar-winning documentary, HEARTS & MINDS, from 1975.
With unprecedented access and beautifully shot by Frances Reid (THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK , LONG NIGHT'S JOURNEY INTO DAY ) and others, the audience enters the Hoang's hidden world. Although the unexploded ordnance (UXO) accidents in Vietnam are not widely publicized, they are not rare occurrences at all. Grave accidents still occur twice every week in the central provinces.
Rainy Season opens with a wide shot of a verdant rice paddy intersected by a wooden irrigation track. Brooklyn-based composer, Allison Leyton-Brown, created the original score that hints of hidden danger behind the sumptuous scenery.
The Hoangs eke out a living in their ancestral land surviving on the small income from cassava and rice while they wait for their young rubber trees to yield. They live in a tiny home in Cam Lo, an area in the former DMZ where violent military combat took place during the Vietnam war. Today about one-third of the land in the central provinces is contaminated with UXO â€“ mostly American cluster bombs, mortars and white phosphorous shells -- waiting in the soil to explode when a child plays, a farmer strikes the ground with his hoe or a scrap metal collector takes one last risk. Of the eight million tons of bombs that the U.S. dropped on Vietnam, it is estimated that up to 10% is still unexploded. The Hoangs are afraid of the UXO in their field, but "still must farm the land."
Lon's grandmother is the voice of history. "Leftover bombs are everywhereâ€¦. During the war we had to accept our fate. It was no use to be scared. When a B-52 dropped bombs, those who got hit died and others would live...Whole families died together in shelters." While she is speaking, we see a shot of an ominous sky and a luscious rice paddy marred by a one thousand pound bomb crater. Bringing us back to the present, Grandmother says, "Now it's over, and we should just work and feed ourselves."
Lon tells Chi that there are two unexploded mortars on his property, "just like the one that exploded the other day" in a neighboring commune. We see the two mortars lying next to the road where a scrap metal collector left them. The title card says, "Unexploded American Mortars." Chi uses materials from nearby and constructs a rope triangle around the two mortars. He says, "We put this triangle here to warn people."
In the peak scene set in the dimly lit kitchen, Nu cooks while talking with Chi. Darkness, shadows and the fire's gray ashes represent the trauma and memory that Nu conjures up as she confides in Chi. She describes her feelings of helplessness when hearing the explosion. Nu and Lon race to the village aid station on a motorbike with a tire that burst in the blast. The next shots imagine the panic that ensued. The musical score and impressionistic shots imagine the dissociation the parents must have felt when it was happening. We see the field going by from the point of view of a motorbike, only in slow motion and in a confusing, chaotic way â€“ the way it feels during a traumatic event. Then it cuts to a normal rural scene of a young woman on a motorbike passing some homes, indicating that the rest of the world continues on, even though the Hoang's world has exploded. At the end of Nu's story she says, "It would be better if I hadn't seen it. Honestly, I can never forget."
Note about access from Director, Joan Widdifield:
Vietnam has a growing economy and is welcoming to tourists. But the communist government is highly suspicious of media. The crew shot Rainy Season under the radar of the government to avoid compromising the authenticity of subject interactions or endangering our hosts. Rainy Season is filmed during four days over a five-year period: 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009. We made the decision not to go through the official channels for permission to film. We would have been assigned a government minder who would severely restrict our time, impede interviews, and possibly deported us at whim. Our in-country liaisons are required to submit our detailed itinerary to officials. Our hosts advised us that the government would become suspicious if we visited a UXO-affected family more than once per visit. Our liaisons wouldn't allow us to try it, which drove the production schedule.
- Running time
- 0 minutes
- Joan Widdifield ... Director-Producer
- Jim Haverkamp ... Editor
- Frances Reid ... Director of Photography
- Skye Fitzgerald ... Director of Photography
- Tran Hong Chi ... Producer-Camera
- Ellen Bruno ... Editing Consultant
- Prod. Co.
- Hearts & Mines, Inc.
- Viet Nam
- Years of Production
- 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
- Release year
- Edinburgh Shorts Fest 2014, UK; The Art of Brooklyn Film Fest 2014, NY; Ethnografilm 2014, Paris; Big Bear Lake Film Fest 2013, CA; Hollyshorts 2013, CA; Asians on Film 2013, NY & CA; Woods Hold Film Fest 2013, MA; Carrboro Film Festival 2013, NC;
- Grand Jury Prize, Woods Hole Film Festival 2013; Audience Award, Woods Hole Film Festival 2013; Best Documentary, Asians on Film - summer, 2013
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