Glorious Ashes (Tro Tan Ruc Ro)
by Chuyen Bui Thac Vietnam / France
In a poor coastal village by the name of Thom Rom, the film centers around three women, whose love lives are unusual and unique to their nature: Hậu with her husband Duong like master and servant, Nhan with her husband (Tam) like mother and child, and Crazy Loan with Khang – the man who raped her when she was 12 – like victim and culprit. In their estranged and distinct way, the 3 women try to get their men’s love and attention.
Duong treats Hậu with cruel coldness, she knows he still loves Nhan, their neighbour. Hậu is resentful of Nhan, but tries to befriend her to find out stories about Nhan, to tell her husband - a way for her to keep him, but also to hurt him.
After Khang has returned from prison and settled in the village Temple, Crazy Loan comes to take revenge on him. He, however, embraces Loan’s act with strange calmness. Eventually, the two grow closer. At one point, Crazy Loan confesses to Khang that she’ll die alone if he’s not going to marry her. This completely bewilders Khang.
A tragedy happens to Nhan and Tam when their young daughter drowns. In his moment of grief, Tam strikes his wife, accusing her for this loss. Tam is pained. Unable to overcome his guilt and inferiority complexes, he drowns himself in alcohol. Since then, Tam and Nhan’s house repeatedly bursts into flames. Nhan never complains. Following each fire, she silently rebuilds a smaller and smaller house.
Khang decides to leave Thổ Sầu Temple. The Elder Monk assures Loan that he will come back.
One day Tam goes into the jungle and does not come home. That night, their hut goes up in flames. No one pays attention to the fire, only Hậu is there to watch it.
Duong says he is going into the city to look for work, Hậu knows he might never come back. That night, Nhan would not escape from the fire as before. Hậu would no longer have any stories to tell. She no longer has a way to keep Duong.
I have chosen an unpretentious way to tell the story, from visuals and camera movement to acting. The film will be shot from a viewpoint that is both observant and unbiased; no matter how severe the incidents occurring on screen may be. And from this detached point of view, I have confidence in my ability to communicate emotions deep inside the characters that will resonate with the audience.
I came across the short story Tro Tan Ruc Ro by Nguyen Ngoc Tu many years ago. The images of these women have stayed with me ever since and I eventually realized it is the film I have to make. What draws me to this story is the way the three leading characters love their men. The unique feature of the story is the contrast between the unsettling sentiments beneath and the pretentious peacefulness on the surface. The characters in Glorious Ashes, especially the female ones, persevere and try to overcome their hardships silently and patiently.
Glorious Ashes is my second project with Bui Thac Chuyen, whom I have great respect and inspiration to work with. I sympathize for the women in Glorious Ashes and strongly believe this story can reach out to audiences outside of Vietnam for its unique local setting, for its analyzing the confusing perception of woman’s role but also carrying the theme of love and being human. The project has been to APM Busan, Cannes L’Atelier where I found a French co-producer. Since then, we also have improved our script to several later drafts. My goal is to build the project as a co-production between European countries and Vietnam. Its very difficult to finance and support for this kind of project within Vietnam.
Shooting format 4K, Color
Estimated running time 90-100'
Production status Financing / Pre-Production
Shooting language Vietnamese
Shooting location Camau - South of Vietnam
Shooting period June-July 2021
Total budget EUR 555'000
Funds secured EUR 150'000
Coproducers Marie Mouchel-Blaisot, Mat Productions, France