Director Tran Thanh Huy is part of a promising wave of young directors in the Vietnam film industry over the last seven years. Since 2005, Tran Thanh Huy has made many short films which have received much acclaim in Vietnam. His short film, 16:30 (2012), won numerous awards, including the Best Short Film Award at the Golden Kite Awards – Vietnam’s equivalent of the Oscars. He eventually developed 16:30 (2012) into his feature length debut, Ròm (2019). During its development, it was awarded the Producer’s Choice Award at the 2014 Autumn Meeting and then it was awarded the Outstanding Project Award at Hanoi Spring Indie Film Producers Class 2015 which was sponsored by the American Film Association (MPA). It was also selected for Asian Project Market 2015. Ròm (2019) eventually had its world premiere at Busan International Film Festival 2019, where it shared the New Currents Prize.
Nguyen Bao is an award-winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles and Saigon. His work has appeared in the New York Times, and on HBO, Vice, and ARTE, among others. He was the producer of Nuoc 2030 (Nguyen-vo Minh, 2014), a sci-fi feature that opened the Panorama of Berlin International Film Festival 2014 and was awarded the Tribeca Film Institute Sloan Filmmaker Fund 2013. He produced Rom (Tran Thanh Huy, 2019), which had its world premiere at Busan International Film Festival 2019, where it won the festival’s top prize, the New Currents Award. Recently, he directed and produced Be Water (2020), a documentary on the life of Bruce Lee, which had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2020 and was invited to other major festivals such as Cannes Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Sydney, and Hong Kong, among many others.
EAST Films is a production company based in Los Angeles and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was founded by Nguyen Bao, Le Anderson, Tran Ham, Le Jenni Trang, and Linh Phan Nhat, among others. It was formed to produce transnational stories with a focus on Southeast Asia, covering three categories - genre films for the local Vietnamese market; Pan-Asian streaming series based in Southeast Asia; and prestige fare to support the burgeoning cinema culture of Vietnam and bring it to international audiences. Their first co-productions, Be Water (Nguyen Bao, 2020) and Rom (Tran Thanh Huy, 2019), have been released to international acclaim and success.
Bui Le Nhat Tien was born in Saigon and has had an extreme passion for cinema and business since she was very young. She first co-produced the film, Ve Duong Cho Yeu Chay (Vu Ngoc Phuong, 2015), and was then selected to attend FLY2017, organized by the Busan Film Commission, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2017. She continued to produce short films with young Vietnamese directors, including Cold Fish (Thanh đoan, 2018), which was nominated for Best Film at SeaShorts Film Festival 2019 in Malaysia, and the upcoming Nostalgia (2020) and Ash in Burning (2020). In addition to short films, she is an in-house producer at one of the major Vietnamese studios, HK Films. She produced feature Rom (Tran Thanh Huy, 2019), and most recently produced feature The Brilliant Darkness (Aaron Toronto, 2020), which is currently in post-production.
It′s suffocating and pitch dark. The rattling of tires grinding on the ground; sounds of hyperventilation; the muffled noise of fingers groping at the metal walls. Out of the blue, coming from the screen, light lands on Han’s face. In panic, she raises her head, searching for the last remnant of air. Her cold breath escapes from her mouth. In dim light, Han unconsciously notices the chaos. Groaning in pain, living corpses are pressed in a freezing container truck. Struggling to feel her fingers, Han texts Phong a message. Phong notices a message from Han. In the dark, full speed ahead, Phong rides away, leaving shrill noise from the exhaust hovering over the silent road. The view around becomes blurry, only speeding lines stretching ahead. Pummeled by the fierce wind, his facial muscles wrinkle up. A few tears fall. The truck begins to move onto the ferry. The siren wails, marking the departure. Inside the container, some people start to take off their clothes unconsciously. There are people falling down, one onto another. Han begins to suffocate. The ferry departs from Calais Harbour in France, heading to the UK. The engine roars. Rushing the bike over the fence, Phong soars up into the sky. Locked in the hazardously freezing air of the container, Han collapses. Her head hits the floor. Her hair and face become frozen. The freezing mist from Han’s breath penetrates the air. It suggests some hope. A checkmark pops up, implying a successful transaction. Phong has successfully moved a group of people across the Russian border. A reward is waiting for him at a hotel. There are other girls dancing erotically, streaming via an adult application. Phong stands in front of a big screen. Apathetically, Phong passes voluptuous bodies. Phong stops at the last girl. He points at Han. Both lay eyes on each other for a while. This is a journey through the desperate world of Tick It, where a group of Vietnamese hope to find refuge in a better world, but it takes a dangerous trek to get there.
Running somewhere, my characters are always on the move. They keep running, always for their lives, until they realize that the Earth stands still. They cannot stop, as they will be left behind by the moving things around them. That is the way I start all of my projects. Motion is my top priority. In so doing, the combination of a road style film, and a true event is an effective approach to telling my story this time, in which thirty-nine Vietnamese people are found dead in a container at a port in Essex, England. Throughout each stage of the journey across the borders of countries, I would like to tell a story of immigration intermingled with contemporary issues. Some Vietnamese, mostly young, decide to “jump-truck” (sneak into a container to cross borders illegally). They leave their country with dreams of “a better life” without fully realizing what lies ahead. They willingly sacrifice their identities and become illegal immigrants to get into a “promised land”. In addition, I would like to explore deeply their lives when they are hit by a pandemic while in a foreign land. Throughout the movie, we will witness immigration from not only Vietnam but also other countries. Deep down in ancient forests, there are clashes among people and cultures, like a microcosm of the whole world, running the gamut of emotions; this is the place where human beings cannot suppress their instincts.