Tuesday, 31 March 2020

After an excrutiatingly long wait of many, many months, Ròm has FINALLY passed the censorship in Vietnam. Pass meaning that some parts of it will have to be deleted and replaced, although Huy has managed to find a way to more or less keep the essence of the film, even if the political and social background of the narrative had to be dramatically toned-down. Months ago, as we were about to present the film at the Busan Film Festival, the Censorship Comnittee had asked Huy to change 70% of the story, add a happy ending, because "poverty, gambling and misery do not exist in Vietnam" (sic), and because it was unthinkable to show human misery and poverty in such a manner on screen - whence the candy coated comedies that are just remakes of Korean or Japanese successes made palatable for the Vietnamese audience...

However, I'm still very happy for Huy, all the actors, crew and people who who worked, fought, supported and gave all their energy to this film. At some point we had started to resign ourselves that the film would be killed in the egg - in Vietnam, that is.
This is one happy piece of news for me after all these past dreadful months. I don't know if there is a reason to joyfully celebrate yet, as all the festivals are on hold now, and the film has to begin its journey all over again. 
But yes, that's a relief.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Sunday, 29 March 2020

If you are to remain indoors, look at the sky

End of the day. End of the week. Already two weeks of confinement. 
There's something I strangely like about this.
The one plane that crosses the sky.

Saturday, 21 March 2020


First time to go outside this week.
It feels like a 'last man standing' scenario... we are not allowed to wander very far from where we stay. Not beyond one kilometer - just enough for some bare necessities shopping.
The pratically deserted streets make a striking sight.

Thursday, 19 March 2020


I had this dream last night where my nephew Vũ An came to me and whispered something in my ears because everybody was asleep. And he was talking to me in Vietnamese with a very cute French accent! I was so happy and immediately went to tell my parents.
"Of course he does" my mother said.

Then I woke up...

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

March 19th, 2020, 12:30: I was supposed to take the plane back to Taiwan now...

Let's see how things develop.

Dennis and François have kindly told that I could stay with them. Until ...
My head is totally empty.  
A land imagined

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Friday, 13 March 2020

Ba mẹ...

Ba mẹ...
I brought back for my parents a macha/raspberry poundcake, which they ate with apparent delight. 
My mother: "My mother did that cake!"
My father and I said nothing. 
My mother: "Yes grandmother had this business. They would do lots of things..."
Silence from me and father. Grandmother? Whose grandmother? My mother's? Mine? 
Me: "I brought that cake for you today..."
My mother: "Yes... but it's mother who did it"
Me: "But your mother passed away decades ago..."
My mother: "Yes. But it's her people who kept on baking it. Grandmother had lots of..."
Me: "Grandmother... you mean your grandmother? My great grandmother...?"
My mother: "Yes my grandmother. I guess she's not around anymore..."
My father: "Perhaps not..."
Me: "And I was 17 when grandmother passed away. I was in high school, I remember"
My mother: (looking at me with a surprised smile) "You're too little to have been born then. Don't be silly!"

And that's how it so often goes...

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Trần Anh Hùng and his wife Yên Khê paid my parents a visit this Sunday rainy afternoon. My father was so happy to see them again.
"It's so nice of them to still come visit us. They're like family." my mother said. 
And I'm so glad to see my father joyful and genuinely happy.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Be Water - No more music

Well... I certainly have been working a lot these past months on Be Water, a documentary about Bruce Lee. The film successfully premiered at the recent Sundance Festival in February. 
However, unfortunate circumstances make it so that my music will be pulled from the film. The reason? Because the contract I was given to sign demands that I yield all my rights to ESPN, a TV sport channel that belongs to the almighty Disney. 
The French copyright laws forbid me to sign such a contract - even if such contracts are apparently common in the US and the UK, they are totally illegal in France and in Europe. However, ESPN would not try to understand this and coldly threatened not to replace my music if I refused to cooperate. I wonder if they actually knew anything of the matter, if Julia and Bao decided to not bother them of the issue and tell Goh and I that they wouldn't budge. There’s something called integrity, so I refused. Goh needed the money and climbed down to them over the so-called negociations. I personally didn’t want to kneel down to those people, who treat others with such unfairness and disrespect. I guess we musicians are so negligeable and disposable entities next to their mighty power that they just don't care. I was furious at Bao Nguyen, the director, who didn't seem to offer much help (he wasn't able to say anything of substance, beside the usual polite, non-involving ready-made phrases), and I suppose the last thing he and his partner Julia wanted was to upset the panel of producers. Whether he himself knew or understood what was really going on regarding the situation and the contract, how or whether he and Julia, his partner producer communicated with each other, I don't know. His answers to me were contradictory, or vague at best, but seemed to always so convienently avoid the point. What I knew that Goh said to me was never addressed in his replies.
I simply know that I have worked tirelessly on the music, that I had to make do with this panel of micro-managing producers who just saw music as a prop, that I delivered everything on time for the premiere. 
I’m also losing money, because ESPN would only pay the second half of my fee if I agreed to sign that bloody contract. "I know it's a lousy contract" Bao had said to Goh...
I consulted the Legal Department of the SACEM, the French Composers Society, and they laughed in disbelief when they read the contract. I also asked Stéphane Junk a friend who's a music counsellor between musicians and production companies, to represent me and negociate, to no avail. "They keep repeating the same thing and don't seem to understand the problem." he told me. "It seems that they don't even know that the copyright law is different in the US and in Europe."

I find it vastly ironic to make a documentary that celebrates and praises Bruce Lee and his battle as an Asian artist against the Hollywood system, his struggles against racial bias in the US, and then be facing the same situation than Bruce Lee. To me, Bao is convieniently using the figure of Bruce Lee as a mirror to his own personal issues. Naturally, people will pay more attention when it's about Bruce Lee.
I would have liked to see a documentary about Baos' own struggles...  
So, no more Be Water for me.
I feel drained and betrayed.

Walk the talk / talk about the walk