HomeReviewsOscar Shortlist / Film Review - ‘Children of the Mist’ is a...

Oscar Shortlist / Film Review – ‘Children of the Mist’ is a Vivid and Crucial Look at Bride-Knapping in Northern Vietnam

In an age where, in progressive circles, the need for consent in even the earliest relationship stages is emphasized, the fact that arranged marriages still exist can seem quite jarring. Different cultures have particular values and traditions that have dictated the way in which their communities couple and reproduce, and while those have evolved over time, they may still lean heavily on patriarchal values and a limited if at all audible female voice. Children of the Mist is a stirring and unnerving look at a twelve-year-old girl in Vietnam who has little say over her own future, which is approaching all too fast.

Di lives in Northern Vietnam, where her Hmong community still practices “bride-knapping,” where a boy kidnaps the girl he is interested in marrying on New Year’s Eve. Following that event, the parents meet to discuss arrangements, but the marriage itself is very much set. Di knows all too well that this may be her future, since it happened to her sister, now seventeen and pregnant with her second child, and her own mother. But she also expresses sentiments that don’t align with this prescribed destiny, something she may not be able to control given the dominance of this tradition and way of life for her family and those around her.

Children of the Mist
Film Movement

Filmmaker Hà Lệ Diễm is herself a native of Vietnam who saw many of her friends halt their educations at fifteen and was interested in looking at how this community is shaped by this phenomenon. It’s incredible to see the access she has not only to the precocious Di, who eagerly speaks with her as a friend, but also to Di’s parents, who regularly get drunk at night and regret what they’ve done but excuse their behavior as a facet of their life, similar to this long-held custom that will dictate what happens to their daughter if a boy who likes her decides to trap her in this fate.

Hearing from Di’s mother is especially revelatory and painful, since she is unimpressed by Di’s individuality and only once it becomes clear that she will still fall victim to the same cycle that has paired her with Di’s father does she express any sort of resentment to it and hope that her daughter might be able to avoid it. There is no shame or deceit present here when it comes to the transparency of those interviewed: they are living their lives and simply sharing them with Diem, whose camera serves to record and capture rather than analyze and judge.

Children of the Mist
Film Movement

The sensitivity Diem chooses in how she approaches her subjects also aids the storytelling considerably. Even when she does try and press to get a specific sentiment addressed, Di, her parents, and even Vang, the boy who sets his eyes on her, still speak freely and uninhibitedly, ready to express what they believe since that is the way things are. This documentary feels extraordinarily lived-in, with Diem showing her determination to show Di as she is now, perhaps hopeful that her mere presence can somehow influence the trajectory of her life, pushing her to question things that Diem isn’t expressly saying.

Children of the Mist has been selected for the Oscar shortlist for Best Documentary Feature, elevating another prominent and important spotlight of bride-kidnapping after last year’s live-action short Ala Kachuu – Take and Run, a story of a similar instance in Kyrgyzstan, albeit at a much older age. While Diem doesn’t explicitly judge Di’s community for perpetuating this practice, Di’s innocence shines through most firmly in a film that allows its subjects to speak loudly for themselves, offering a complex and harrowing look at the role of choice and modernity in long-established defining aspects of culture.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

Children of the Mist is now playing in theaters.

Abe Friedtanzer
Abe Friedtanzerhttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. He has attended numerous film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW, and is a contributing writer for The Film Experience, Awards Radar, and AwardsWatch.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments