Children of the Mist
A delicately handled documentary portrait of a sparky teen girl torn between her community’s traditions and an independent future.
Di is a 12-year-old Hmong girl from a remote village in Vietnam’s northern mountains, where she helps her family farm indigo and care for pigs. In many ways, she’s a typical teen – feisty, combative with her mother, glued to her phone, flirting with boys. She’s also blithely unconcerned about her community’s tradition of kidnapping into child marriage. But then Lunar New Year comes along and local boy Vang carries her off on his scooter.
A close family friend of Di’s, director Hà Lệ Diễm is granted intimate access over three years to make this evocative coming-of-age documentary, which is both a character study of its sparky protagonist and a thoughtful ethnographic portrait of the little-represented Hmong people. Also shot by Hà, it is as visually expressive as a drama, and has a sensitive touch that never makes anyone into a victim or villain. Di knows other ways of life are out there, and Children of the Mist compellingly explores how such knowledge complicates the choices of young people in her position.
“Freedom of choice isn’t only a question of gender, but one of privilege … The strength of [Hà’s] documentary comes from how it balances a recognition of this fact with a celebration of Di’s bullheaded fight for independence.” – Screen Daily