video and moving image works
This is the first from the intended “Vietnamese Classics Re-Cut Series” by Nguyen Trinh Thi (2011). The original film, ‘Bài ca ra trận’, was produced in 1973 by the Vietnam Feature Film Studio.
Song to the Front abstracts a feature-length 1970s Vietnamese war propaganda film and its aesthetic and political elements into a 5-minute vignette. Set to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, which represented a sacred pagan ritual in pre-Christian Russia where a young girl dances herself to death to propitiate the god of Spring, Song deconstructs the melodramatic and romanticized elements of the original social-realist drama. Playing with the original plot line in an ambiguous manner, the filmmaker desires an imaginative space for the viewer’s reinterpretation of the historical event and perspective.
Single channel video, 5:14, black and white, sound
“A Window to the World,” Hiroshima City Contemporary Art Museum, Japan 2013
“Collecting Counter-Memories,” San Art, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 2013
Artists Film International 2012
Bangkok Experimental Film Festival 2012
Four Rising Talents from Southeast Asia: Khanh Cong Bui, Nguyen Thai Tuan, Nguyen Trinh Thi and Nov Cheanik, 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong
‘Song to the Front’ by Vietnamese artist, Nguyen Trinh Thi takes a historical Vietnamese war film from 1973 as its central source. Re-editing ‘Bai ca rat ran (Song to the Front)’, produced by the Vietnam Feature Film Studio and directed by Tran Dac, Trinh Thi has turned this rarely seen black and white classic feature into a small vignette that decomposes the aesthetic and romantic elements of this social-realist melodrama. Trinh Thi extrapolates the central narrative of the film into a 5-minute abstraction, her jump cuts and use of still frames are heightened with her use of Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’. This climactic music refers to a sacred pagan ritual in pre-Christian Russia where a young girl dances herself to death – a vision that Stravinsky claimed was to propitiate the god of Spring. For Trinh Thi, these young soldiers who gave their lives for their country are the sacrificed pagans.Trinh Thi’s version of ‘Song to the Front’ plays with the original plot line in a deliberately ambiguous manner, desiring an imaginative space for the viewer to reinterpret what were intended to be very literal epics that enforce an ideological view.
Nguyen Trinh Thi is an artist, filmmaker and documentarian based in Hanoi, Vietnam. Her diverse practice has consistently investigated the role of memory in the necessary unveiling of hidden, displaced or misinterpreted histories, often making use of original documentary footage or undertaking extensive investigative field work. […]
(Written by Zoe Butt, Director and Curator of Sàn Art, Ho Chi Minh City, for Artist Films International 2012)