Two Vietnamese Projects Selected to Receive Funding from Purin Pictures Fund in Spring 2023

Purin Pictures, a non-profit Asian film financier, has announced grants for five projects from Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

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SOURCE: COURTESY OF PURIN PICTURES  (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) DUONG DIEU LINH, EMIR EZWAN, ANG GECK GECK, QUANG NONG NHAT, UKRIT SA-NGUANHAI
(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT) DUONG DIEU LINH, EMIR EZWAN, ANG GECK GECK, QUANG NONG NHAT, UKRIT SA-NGUANHAI. COURTESY OF PURIN PICTURES

Purin Pictures, a Bangkok-based film fund, has chosen five projects from Southeast Asia to receive grants totaling $120,000 in its latest funding round for spring 2023. The announcement was made in a report by Screen Daily on Monday.

The titles of two highly anticipated films have been announced: Duong Dieu Linh’s feature debut Don’t Cry, Butterfly and Quang Nong Nhat’s documentary Baby Jackfruit, Baby Guava. Both films are set to captivate audiences with their unique stories and styles.

For the past few years, Vietnam has been a shining beacon amongst its peers in the Southeast Asian region when it comes to the cinematic industry, according to Aditya Assarat, the co-director of Purin Pictures. “It’s fair to say that we are currently in the midst of a Vietnamese New Wave,” he added, noting that both of the projects were made with a strong and distinct signature style that is reflective of the contemporary Vietnamese filmmakers.

Director Duong Dieu Linh’s “Don’t Cry Butterfly,” is about forty-something housewife Tam, who discovers her husband’s affair and decides to cast a spell in the hope of voodooing him back into love. However, her daughter Ha begs Tam to get a divorce instead, but Tam ignores Ha’s warnings and installs the spell in her room.

The spell initially appears to be successful, but it has an unforeseen side effect—it awakens the House Spirit. At first, it appears as a harmless dark spot on the ceiling, but it gradually grows into a monstrous entity. As this is happening, Ha is struggling to cope with her own personal traumas and fears of becoming like her mother. Unfortunately, Tam is too preoccupied with trying to save her deteriorating marriage, completely unaware of the danger that looms over her. However, reality quickly strikes when Tam’s husband’s pregnant lover appears at the door. Desperate for an escape, Tam is then consumed by the House Spirit, which has now spread across the entire ceiling.

Ha returns home to discover her mother has withdrawn into a protective shell on the ceiling, refusing to emerge. In the end, Ha decides to rescue her mother in the only way she knows how, as a loving daughter. With a determined heart, she reaches out to her mother in hope of a bright future.

Linh, a Vietnamese filmmaker, is renowned for her unconventional depictions of sad, angsty, and nagging middle-aged women. Her films explore the overlap between realism and fantasy, drawing on superstitious and spiritual beliefs to create captivating visual stories. As reported by Vietnam News, Linh’s work has earned her widespread recognition and praise.

Her shorts have garnered numerous awards at prestigious international film festivals such as Locarno and Busan. Linh is an alumna of the Berlinale Talents, Asian Film Academy, and Locarno programs. She is currently in the process of developing her first feature film, Don’t Cry, Butterfly, which won the Moulin D’andé-CECI Award and was also a part of the Full Circle Lab, Less Is More, and Locarno Open Doors Hub initiatives.

Poster of Don’t Cry Butterfly.
Poster of Don’t Cry Butterfly.

Meanwhile, the documentaries are Nong Nhat Quang’s “Baby Jackfruit, Baby Guava” which focuses on a conservative mother, a mentally-ill daughter, and a gay son.

Nong Nhat Quang, an acclaimed filmmaker based in Hanoi, made headlines when his first documentary – about a gay dating app – was banned. Nevertheless, his work in the field of queer cinema didn’t go unnoticed, as it ultimately led to his participation in the Queer Asia project, where he directed two impressive documentaries that explored the queer culture in Vietnam.

He is an active participant in Doc Dicada, a Vietnamese documentary development initiative. Quang has also attended several prestigious documentary workshops, including IDFAcademy, Docs By The Sea, Asia Doc, and the American Film Showcase.

His feature-length debut, Baby Jackfruit Baby Guava, won the Most Promising Project Award at the Singapore International Film Festival’s (SGIFF) Southeast Asian Film Lab and received the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam’s (IDFA) Bertha Development Fund. Baby Jackfruit Baby Guava was presented at the Cannes Doc under the Spotlighted Projects section – curated by DOK Leipzig.

A third recipient is Farid, a fantasy-comedy film from rising Malaysian filmmaker Emir Ezwan. His debut feature Roh was a breakout horror hit and was selected as Malaysia’s submission to the 2020 Academy Awards. Aditya describes Farid as a movie that “straddles the gap between independent and mainstream genre cinema”.

Rounding off the selection are two projects developed at other Southeast Asian regional labs. Ah Girl, by Singaporean first-time feature director Ang Geck Geck, was awarded at SEAFIC Lab in 2018, while The Itinerant, from Thailand’s Ukrit Sa-nguanghai, won the most promising project prize at the Singapore International Film Festival’s Southeast Asian Film Lab in 2021.

Ang Geck Geck’s “Ah Girl” is a story of a seven-year-old girl who must make a difficult decision when her parents divorce – to stay with her father or her mother. Farid, from Malaysian director Emir Ezwan, tells the story of a penniless man who befriends a flesh-eating spirit that grants him wealth, but at a heavy cost.

Thai director Ukrit Sa-nguanhai is in the process of producing “The Itinerant,” a documentary that looks into the propaganda film operations that took place in Thailand during the Cold War.

Each fiction project will receive $30,000 while the documentaries will be granted $15,000.

Purin Pictures, a company co-founded by renowned Thai directors Visra Vichit-Vadakan, Anocha Suwichakornpong, and Aditya Assarat, was established in Thailand in 2017. Purin Pictures was co-founded in Thailand in 2017 by noted Thai directors Visra Vichit-Vadakan, Anocha Suwichakornpong and Aditya Assarat.

The founders of the new fund cite established indie funding organizations such as Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund and Busan’s Asian Cinema Fund as their inspiration. Additionally, the Purin Foundation – a Bangkok-based organization devoted to educational initiatives – is a supporter of the fund.

Hannah Nguyen