Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bi, Don't Be Afraid! (Bi, dung so!)

Bi, Don’t Be Afraid! (Bi, dung so!) (Director: Phan Dang Di): This debut fea­ture from Vietnamese dir­ector Phan Dang Di has picked up some impressive awards, including a few at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It’s the story of an extended family with six-year-old Bi at its centre. He lives with his par­ents and his mother’s unmar­ried sister, and near the begin­ning of the film they are joined by his paternal grand­father, who has returned gravely ill from many years spent abroad. No one seems to know where he’s been or what he’s been doing, and Bi’s father spends the rest of the film avoiding his own father. And the rest of his family, for that matter. Instead, he stays out late every night, drinking and flirting with a young masseuse.

As his par­ents’ mar­riage slowly dis­in­teg­rates, Bi is busy dis­cov­ering the world around him. He spends lots of time hanging around at the ice factory, where his older friend An works, and at the river­side where the wild grass grows. He develops a bond with his grand­father and enjoys the time he spends with his aunt.

Meanwhile, his aunt is burning with lust for one of the high school stu­dents she teaches. Everyone seems uncom­fort­able with her unmar­ried status, including her, so she goes along on a setup to meet a single man and even has sex with him. Nothing seems to shake her desire for the stu­dent, though.

This is a film with lots of mys­teries, none of which are revealed. In one sense, this leaves room for the char­ac­ters to act in unpre­dict­able ways, but it also leads to some baffle­ment. Bi’s seeming unaware­ness of the implo­sion of his family is sad, unless you see it as evid­ence of the resi­li­ence of children.

The film is beau­ti­fully shot, and lan­guidly paced, but in the end, the nar­rative left a few too many things left unsaid for me.

Bi, Don’t Be Afraid! is playing Thursday November 11 at 9:00pm at Innis Town Hall as part of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. Tickets are $12 and are avail­able online and at the door.



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