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Asian Project Market
Buffalo Boy

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Buffalo Boy (Mùa Len Trâu)

Directed by Nguyễn-Võ Nghiêm-Minh

  • France, Belgium 2004; 102 min
  • Original version: Vietnamese
  • Genre: Drama

  • From the director of PICTUREHOUSE presented at Asian Project Market

Synopsis

Indochina, 1940, under French occupation. Kim, aged 15, has the job of taking his two buffaloes far away from the flooded lands of the South. These buffaloes are the family's only source of income and must arrive safely in the Ba Thé mountains. This dangerous journey across vast, water-logged landscapes marks Kim's coming of age. He joins a gang of buffalo keepers who are part-time bandits, and discovers an adult world made up of brawls, alcohol, and pillaging. In time, this violence gives way to friendship, love, and the joy of freedom.

Director's Statement

Buffalo Boy is set in Cà-Mau where the low lands meet the sea in the far south of Vietnam, my home country. Every year, during the rainy season which lasts about six months, water covers the entire land. To survive, you have to lead the buffaloes – which are of invaluable worth, because they are essential to rice production – to distant lands so that they can find grass to eat. This is the framework in which this adventure is set, involving the relationship between a teenager Kim and his father during the cycles of life and death. The story starts in around 1940 when Vietnam was still under French rule. We realize that Kim is very close to his father who taught him all he knew. Kim spent his youth in a gentle family atmosphere. Now a teenager, he rebels against his protective home and wants to break free of it. Going off with the buffaloes on such an adventure is an unhoped-for opportunity. In Ca-Mau, life is mainly a matter of survival. The flooding is both a source of disaster and fertility. Water, which is often a symbol of life, is here also a cause of death and rot. To subsist, man has to engage in a perpetual struggle with the elements. In this context, the buffalo is man’s only ally: it is a sacred animal and a highly-prized commodity. But the world of buffalo keepers is a man’s world in which friendship is virile and women are oppressed. Journeying across these wide open spaces, solidarity and a code of honor rule this community of brigands in which Kim has to carve out a niche for himself. Over the course of Kim’s story, we have the chance to witness the end of a lifestyle which still existed not long ago. It represents my roots and is a part of my own past.

Production

  • GREEN SNAPPER PRODUCTIONS

    Nguyễn Võ Nghiêm Minh