The award-winning film Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Ben Trong Vo Ken Vang) by director Pham Thien An is set to release in Vietnam on August 11th. The film won the prestigious “Camera d’Or” award at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, and this release comes three months after its victory.
An Exploration of Cinema
The story follows Thien as she returns her sister-in-law’s body to their hometown for burial after a car accident. Her son, Dao, miraculously survives the crash. In order to reunite the boy with his missing father, Thien embarks on a journey that leads her to confront her past and contemplate life’s deeper questions of faith and purpose. The film also showcases the stunning landscapes of Vietnam.
Director Pham Thien An explains that the title “Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell” symbolizes the cover people put on in society – a cycle of money and fame – while the capsule inside represents a person’s soul.
The film is deeply personal for Thien An, who drew inspiration from his own life experiences. From the film itself to the challenges faced during production, Thien An embarked on a similar journey. This personal connection adds an intriguing element to the movie.
Creating the film was a significant risk due to its low budget. It took 110 days, spanning from 2020 to 2022, to complete the project.
Typically, a film must secure 80-90% of its budget before production can begin. However, Thien An persisted with the “Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell” project for three years, with only 20-30% of the required funding. Despite the challenges, the director was determined to finish the film and submit it to the Cannes Film Festival.
Thien An’s persistence stems from the diverse age range of the film’s cast. Waiting for additional funding would have resulted in younger actors aging and potentially posing health issues for the older actors. Thien An firmly believes that the will to accomplish something is more important than money, coupled with the conviction that “I will do it.” Additionally, some of the most challenging shooting conditions yielded unexpected effects, further enhancing the film.
Inspired by those around him, Thien An’s goal is to tell stories about Vietnam and its people. He sees Vietnam as an endless source of inspiration, and he intends to focus on creating movies that reflect this.
A Film Without Boundaries
The film presents Vietnam’s countryside and mountains with minimal backgrounds and installations. This unique approach has earned Pham Thien An’s work high praise from critics.
Mubi, a classic film screening platform, described “Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell” as an enchanting epic. Guy Lodge, a seasoned writer for Variety, hailed the film’s success as one of the most brilliant and noteworthy in the Cannes Film Festival’s history.
The French press also showered Thien An and his movie with praise. The publication Libération likened “Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell” to a contemplative epic poem set in rural Vietnam, while The Daily Screen’s information page gushed about Pham Thien An’s ability to capture the story for the audience.
Gavroche, a French magazine in Thailand, noted the difficulty for young filmmakers to compete at Cannes. However, the author of the article believes that Pham Thien An has emerged as one of Cannes’ finest discoveries, with great potential for the future.
Tran Anh Hung, a Vietnamese-born French film director who won the Best Director award at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival, considers the screening of Thien An’s film in Vietnam an important event and a great encouragement. Hung praises “Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell” as a valuable production. Interestingly, Tran Anh Hung won the “Camera d’Or” award himself in 1993 for “The Scent of Green Papaya.” Thirty years later, another director of Vietnamese descent has achieved the same honor.
For Pham Thien An, cinema knows no limits, allowing him to explore emotions, space, and time freely. An views cinema as a medium to convey his concerns without constraints. With its use of slow cinema techniques, including a deliberate pacing, plot development, and minimal climactic moments, the film is expected to resonate differently with Vietnamese audiences.
According to critic Le Hong Lam, the movie offers many merits, but sitting through its three-hour duration can be challenging for audiences. Typically, only blockbusters like Avengers attract such attention. The film will be released in Vietnam on August 11th and in France on September 13th.