The 99-minute-long movie by Vietnamese director Bui Kim Quy is on screen at the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), which takes place from February 10 to 20.

The “Send-off” tells the story of Moc Mien’s husband, who was killed in a construction site and incinerated at Cremation Chamber No.4. Photo: Purin Pictures

In The Memoryland movie, the stories are linked through the description of death and all the rituals that accompany the end of life that may create a peaceful mind for both the dead and the living.

Death serves as the central theme that weaves three interconnected stories together in the motion picture, including “Send-off”, “Nether-World” and “This-World”, which take place in three different strips of the time, space, and locations, closely connected by death. 

The stories tell about a young man who chooses to cremate his mother in the city instead of a traditional burial in her village, and a young widow who brings the ashes of her construction worker husband back to the village of his ancestors.

According to the female director, the film is partly based on her personal observations of death.

“Birth and death come in a cycle, which will only be complete with burial. Old people don’t wish to have their bodies burnt through cremation,” Quy said.

“But burial land is becoming scarce because of modernization and traditional burial practices are vanishing. Preparing for death and worshiping the dead are essential in Vietnamese culture,” she added.

A scene from the movie The Memoryland: A paper effigy is burned to worship a dead person. Photo:

According to Mai Nguyen, the Director of Munich-based Scarlet Visions, one of The Memoryland producers, the movie highlights the differences between urban and rural life. It reminds those leaving villages to pursue their dreams, study, work, or a better life in the cities of the customs and traditions of where they were born and raised. The film also conveys the message of love between people, she said.

After the Berlin International Film Festival, The Memoryland will complete the Doc Fortnight film festival at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (USA) in late February.

The 72nd Berlin International Film Festival attracts the participation of more than 250 films from 69 countries and territories. In this year’s Berlinale, the Vietnamese film is vying in the “Forum” category. There will be five screenings of the film at five different movie theaters in Berlin from February 14 to 19.

Founded in 1951, the Berlin International Film Festival has been held every February since 1978 and is one of the “Big Three” alongside the Venice Film Festival in Italy and the Cannes Film Festival in France.

With around 300,000 tickets sold and 500,000 admissions each year, it has the largest public attendance of any annual film festival. Up to 400 films are shown in several sections across cinematic genres. Around twenty films compete for the festival’s top awards, called the Golden Bear and several Silver Bears.