This may explain why two French filmmakers François Leroy and Stéphanie Lansaque have made Vietnam their second home.

It was love at first sight for the filmmakers on their first visit to Vietnam as tourists in 2002. They were instantly seduced by the country’s captivating beauty.

“We immediately felt comfortable on arriving here. We felt a sense of familiarity with the country and its streets. We were impressed by the dynamism of the country and the kindness of its people,” Lansaque said.

Since then, the filmmakers have been returning to Vietnam every year, and each time they stay for a period of four to six months. The total time they have spent in the country is five years.

While they may be French, they do not see themselves as very different from the locals and have integrated easily with the life here. They speak Vietnamese, cook Vietnamese food, travel by motorbike and go out with the locals.

Their first trip to in 2002 was clearly memorable in every way and a turning point in their lives.

At the time, Leroy was a student studying animation at the prestigious Gobelins School of Visual Communication (L’Ecole de l’Image) in Paris. Lansaque was a design artist and worked as an artistic director.

But the strong love they felt for Vietnam on this trip motivated them to make their first film — an animated film inspired by Vietnamese daily life.

Animated films

Until now, the couple have made three short animated films on Vietnamese society, which have received a positive response from the public and won several awards at important French film festivals.

Last week, the two French artists presented the three films to the public in Hà Nội.

Those who watched the films were pleasantly surprised to see how cartoons could portray in such a realistic way scenes of the daily life and culture of the local people.

Their unique style and the combined use of different techniques, such as mixing drawings by hand, digital drawings, videos and photos, accompanied by well-selected pieces of traditional music, left the audiences mesmerised.

It normally takes the filmmakers one-and-a-half years to complete an animated film.

Their first short film, Bonsoir Monsieur Chủ (Hello Mr Chủ), which began production in 2003 and finished in 2005, captured life in crowded HCM City.

This film captured their first impressions of the country. One is impressed to see not only the beauty of the Vietnamese countryside, with the images of the dragonflies, the lotus flowers and the paddy fields, but also the lively atmosphere on the city’s crowded streets.

In 2012, they finished their second film on Vietnam, titled Fleuve Rouge (The Red River). The film depicts the hard lives of people who have moved from the countryside to the city in search of a better life.

Most of the story’s backdrop is on the middle bank of the Rid River, under the Long Biên Bridge.

In 2015, the French artists finished their film Café froid (Cold Coffee), revolving around the life of a girl living in HCM City. The girl’s mother died in an accident, forcing her to abandon her studies to work at the coffee shop run by her family.

The film features the harsh realities of life the girl and thousands of others endure each day, suffering from psychological violence and difficult living conditions, as they toil day and night.

“It’s the sad realities of Vietnamese society that we also wanted to portray in this film,” Lansaque said.

Through their films, the artists have become well-known in Vietnamese society.

“We have a lot of Vietnamese friends. Many have invited us to come to their homes. We have shared many moments with them, from celebrations of Tết (the Lunar New Year) to local weddings, birthdays and other anniversaries,” Lansaque said.

“It’s easy to make friends with the Vietnamese people. They are very friendly and generous. We can become friends while sitting at a café or even while walking on the street,” she said.

When the couple is in Hà Nội, they often stay at a small house in Hàng Điếu Street and spend their free time at a local coffee shop nearby.

“While sitting at a café, sipping a cup of iced tea, we observe life. We talk to the locals and learn a lot of things from them,” Leroy said.

“Our films depict the lives of the people we meet on the streets. Their day-to-day lives interest us.”

The French couple are now working on their fourth film, which is a long light-hearted animated film on Vietnam’s daily life. It features a wandering dog, who discovers by chance the dog meat that is sold on the streets.

“Vietnam has brought us a lot of energy and inspiration. One day, we may stop making films, but one thing is certain: We will never stop loving this country,” Leroy said.