As I was filming Sùng A Lùng dancing, I noticed this old man standing by his doorway on the right at the end of the corridor. He had been discreetly watching us the whole time. In between takes, my friend Nam later went to him to apologise for the inconvenience.
"There is no inconvenience at all!!!" he replied. "I really love to watch you. It's so beautiful!"
I was so moved when Nam told me what the old man said. Perhaps this man never had the chance to go to the theatre and see that kind of performance. Perhaps it was the first time he saw anything like this from so close. Sùng was dancing in silence, to no music at all, but the power and ingensitty of his movements were striking.
Whatever it was, I was happy we could even if unintentionally offer him that moment to the man. That gives me even more hope and determination to keep on doing developing art projects in Vietnam.
Then I realised that the man would be visible in the footage. After I checked what we had filmed I decided that it was fine. It's just a distant and blurry figure in the back.
I filmed Sùng dancing in various places of the building: the big hallway, the staircases, the small meandering corridors leading from one tiny room to the other. The place had soul. I didn't have to think what I was going to film. It was as if a voice was directing me and guiding my movement. I had rented the camera for a couple of days. "Why didn't you ask me??? We do lots of shooting at my work, I could have got you one!" Nam said.
It was Nam who thought of the building when I told him what I was looking for. Nam has a curious and inquisitive mind and whether in Hanoi or Saigon, he is always happy to bring to his favourite places. I hope he will have the opporutnity to come to Taipei! He took me to the building a few days before to make sure it matched my ideas. It was just perfect! Some friends of his had a little cafe on the seventh floor. That was where I decided to film the scenes.
When we were finished and about to leave, we saw the old ladies who were sitting and chatting together at the entrance.
"So you young folks are done?"
We nodded with a smile.
"We you shooting a ghost film? Many people come here to film ghost films. There are many ghosts in this building!" one of the ladies said.
So that must have been what I felt during the shooting. I had made sure to pray and ask permission to the spirit of the place to allow me to film. I had learned my lesson well after all these years living in Asia!