Dat Phuong Nam – Song of the South

This is an unforgettable work of art. Watching Dat Phuong Nam makes me proud of my beautiful country, especially the people, the lifestyle, the folk music, the rivers, the mountains, and the forests. Wish these aesthetic qualities could be shared with the American audiences and others around the world.

Although Dat Phuong Nam is more than 10 hours long, the cast does a remarkable job holding up the series. Hung Thuan gives a flawless performance from beginning to end as a young boy, An, who exposed to many things during his adventure in searching for his father. His adorable appeal and charming personality is his secret weapon that allows him to conquered difficulties. Everyone loves and protects him wherever he goes. In return, he respects and cares for everyone around him. Along side with Hung Thuan, Phung Ngoc also does a compelling job as Co (An’s best friend). Phung Ngoc brings joyful to the table. Even though both of these young actors are talented, not one overshadows the other and together they bring in an engaging experience to the adventure. Watching these two innocent kids laughing and enjoying life – even though life is ruthless – makes me want to be part of the crew. The cutest part is when they shaved their heads to become little monks.

Beside those two, the supporting cast deserves recognition as well. Director Vinh Son does a fantastic job at casting appropriate roles, noticeably Thuy Loan as Ut Trong. Thuy Loan’s countryside beauty and her charisma mesmerize me. Her acting is convincing as well. The love story between Ut Trong, the sweetheart, and Vo Tong (plays by Quang Le), the hero, is both tangible and relatable. Another standout character is Kieu Oanh’s Co Dao Nam Xuan. Kieu Oanh amazes me with her ability to take on this serious role. In my mind, she is always a crazy comedian yet she pulls off this one nicely.

Whenever I watch a Vietnamese film, the script always throws me off because of the awkwardness in the dialog. Fortunately, Nguyen Ho does a fantastic job of providing natural and realistic conversations between the characters. It’s nice to hear the southern accents that I can relate to. Of course, the rich and exquisite cinematography is one of the major accomplishments for this film. If you have never been to Viet Nam, watching this film will make you consider where to spend on your next vacation.

To fully appreciate Dat Phuong Nam, you might have to look past the preaching, put away the political point of view, and just enjoy the aesthetic experience. Emerge yourself into the beauty of nature, the timbre of the musical instruments, and the simple life. Once you let the characters take your breath away on a remarkable journey of adventure, drama, romance, and a little bit of magical, I am sure you won’t even noticed the message behind it.