Hanoi filmmaker’s triumph at the 74th Berlinale Film Awards

In this acclaimed movie, the talented up-and-coming filmmaker Pham Ngoc Lan unravels the narrative of familial bonds and the intricate fusion of Eastern and Western societies in modern-day Vietnam.


The drama film “Cu li Never Cries” by Vietnamese director Pham Ngoc Lan, born in 1986, has won the “Best First Feature” award at the 2024 Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale).

A scene from the Vietnamese film “Cu li Never Cries” by Pham Ngoc Lan.

During the awards ceremony on February 26th in Berlin, the director expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to showcase his unique vision.

“The Berlinale Award is of great importance to us as it allows us to bring attention to the perspectives of a small country like ours. With this recognition, our way of seeing the world will continue to exist. This award strengthens my belief that the Berlinale will always support and remember voices from diverse backgrounds,” he said.

Pham Ngoc Lan, a self-taught filmmaker from Hanoi, Vietnam, has previously had his short films screened at the Berlinale in 2016 and 2019. “Cu li Never Cries” marks his debut as a feature film director.

The film stars People’s Artist Minh Chau alongside young underground actors such as Ha Phuong, Xuan An, and Hoang Ha.

The awards ceremony at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival. Photo: Coolie Never Cries Facebook

“Cu li Never Cries” offers a fresh perspective on the intertwining of family and social complexities between Eastern and Western cultures. An unusual creature, the pygmy slow loris, plays a pivotal role in the storyline.

The film follows Nguyen (played by Minh Chau) and her family. After retrieving her long-estranged husband’s ashes in Germany, Nguyen returns to Vietnam carrying a pygmy slow loris inherited from her deceased husband. Meanwhile, her young niece is preparing for her wedding while dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. The young couple, who had never considered getting married before, faces an uncertain future together.

The film has garnered positive feedback from both the jury and international film critics. The official website of the Berlin International Film Festival described it as a contemplative and poetic work where the present and echoes of Vietnamese history converge.

Hanoi film director Pham Ngoc Lan honored at Berlinale 2024.

Matthew Joseph Jenner of ICS News praised Pham Ngoc Lan for crafting an intriguing tale of identity and grief in this unconventional drama that presents a nuanced view of contemporary Vietnamese society.

“The film takes the audience on a journey through the ambiguous space between the past and the present, offering glimpses of Vietnamese culture from various perspectives. Together, they form a comprehensive picture of a country caught between a challenging past and a promising future,” he wrote.

The Berlin International Film Festival, now in its 74th year, is one of the most prestigious film festivals worldwide. It showcases a diverse selection of international films, including features, documentaries, and short films.

This year, the festival’s Golden Bear, the top prize, was awarded to “Dahomey” by Franco-Senegalese director Mati Diop.