Vietnamese Movie “Cu Li Never Cries” Takes Home GWFF Best First Feature at Berlinale

Vietnamese film "Cu Li Khong Bao Gio Khoc" (Cu Li Never Cries) directed by Pham Ngoc Lan was awarded Best First Feature by the Society for the Management of Film and Television Rights (GWFF) on February 24.


Lan was born and raised in Hanoi but pursued his passion for filmmaking after studying urban planning at Hanoi Architectural University. He has already gained recognition for his short films, which were showcased at the Berlinale in 2016 and 2019. Cu Li Never Cries marks his debut as a feature film director.

People’s Artist Minh Chau (left) and actor Hoang Ha in a scene from the movie Culi Never Cries – Photo: An Nam Productions/Cadence Studio

The Cu Li Never Cries project is Pham Ngoc Lan’s most significant film endeavor since 2017, produced by An Nam Productions (HCMC) and Cadence Studio (Hanoi).

The film follows the story of Lady M., a retired Vietnamese woman working in a blue-collar job. She returns to Berlin after learning of her estranged German husband’s passing. Her husband’s legacy to her is an urn containing his ashes and Cu Li, a primate commonly found in Southeast Asia. Back in Vietnam, Lady M. discovers that her pregnant niece Van is rushing into marriage, and she is concerned that Van will repeat the same mistakes she made. Lady M. embarks on a journey to revisit her memories, reflecting on Vietnam’s rich history.

The film skillfully portrays the contrasting perspectives of an elderly woman reflecting on her past and her young niece anxious about the uncertain future. It thoughtfully and poetically explores the present, the future, and the intricate echoes of Vietnamese history.

(From left to right) Director Pham Ngoc Lan with People’s Artist Minh Chau, Hoang Ha, and Le Thi Ha Phuong on the red carpet of the 2024 Berlin Film Festival. Photo: Berlin Film Festival

The Berlinale has been dedicated to supporting the next generation of filmmakers since 2006 when it introduced the GWFF Best First Feature Award.

The award, which is sponsored by the GWFF (Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung von Film- und Fernsehrechten), a society focused on safeguarding film and television rights, comes with a prize of EUR 50,000 (approximately US $54,000).

In 2024, the nominees for the GWFF Best First Feature Award included 16 directorial feature film debuts from the sections Competition, Encounters, Panorama, Forum, and Generation.

The 74th Berlin Film Festival took place from February 15 to 25 in Berlin, Germany. Culi Never Cries was screened in German theaters from February 20 to 25 as part of the Berlin Film Festival.

Charlotte Pho