What do I know about Vietnam or what interactions have I had? What can I list?
- The beautiful hand-craved chest in my Nan’s lounge room depicting a typical Vietnamese town centre
- Vietnam War
- My friends who are Vietnamese and hearing them speak to their parents in Vietnamese
- That one episode of Top Gear where they went to Vietnam and rode around, mostly on scooters
- The many rivers that flow through the country
- I can list a few places and recognise the flag
This about the extent of my knowledge of the country. Out of all of memories, my earliest and most vivid is the hand-craved chest at my Nan’s house- the scene shows a bridge connecting two Vietnamese towns, with traditional food markets and wearing conical hats. It paints this glorious, harmonious picture of this sweet culture.
That is how I know Vietnam: the very traditional, rural culture built around food- which I guess fits the typical Asian stereotype…
So when watching Furie (2019), I did not know much but was expecting to see much of the Vietnamese country side with food being a main central piece of the story.
….I wasn’t entirely wrong…
So just a quick summary of the film, it is a martial arts/action film that sees main character, Hai Phuong, and her daugther, Mai, go through some challenging times when Mai is kidnapped. Hai Phuong, who is an ex-gangster with martial arts skills, hunts down her daughter’s kidnapper and in the process saves multiple other children who were also trafficked. It was a powerful film that portrays a strong woman and conveys the strength of family and a mother’s love.
I will admit, I did struggle with the genre, because it’s not something I normally watch so I attempted to compare it to a film I am more familiar with as seen by the Tweet below:
This was to help me gain a better sense of films that are from my own cultural background, and see if this helped me whilst watching and evaluating this film. So others that were also suggested include:
Once I started watching and live-tweeting, I noticed from the very early minutes of the film, that there was still that very typical relationships with food, particularly with the food markets that are so iconic to Asia:
We are aware of the natural stereotype that paints Asian women out to be perfect cooks, who are there to feed the family- as a wife and mother, she is the family food provider. In Vietnam, women have four virtues and one is good cooking skills (falls under ‘good homemaking skills’), although I would suggest this is somewhat similar to my cultural background as my mother and grandmother are both exceptional cooks, this is not something that has been pushed on me to learn cooking skills, to please my future husband or children.
But I noticed a fundamental difference between this film, and last week’s film ‘Love For Sale’ (see last weeks post), our main character, the ferocious and powerful, Hai Phuong was not the perfect cook, she tried but did not fulfil the stereotype of the perfect mother and wife material (As she was a single mother) own the kitchen area:
As you can see from the above Tweet, I appreciated this feature of the film, I felt it almost made her more relatable, I am aware that food and cooking is a valuable but surely not everyone is perfect! It showed her flaws as a character and made her other characteristics even more powerful.
But similarly to Love For Sale, last week one of the strongest themes was: family. In Vietnam, women put their homes and family first, this is absolutely the case for Furie, Hai Phuong continuously shows us the lengths she will go for her daughter. Western culture promotes individuality, the family unit is very important in Vietnamese culture. There is this constant reminder of how valuable family is, and not just from Hai Phuong, but from other characters:
From the two above Tweets, we see another family, a mother and son (who gets into fight with Hai Phuong) protect one another and share strong and pure words of how they would be lost without one another.
This gives a deeper sense of how close family units are in Vietnam, I value this feature of their culture. I am very close with my parents and brother, but not so much my extended family, but even so there is a different strength, different level of commitment that the Vietnamese have with their family, it is truly astounding.