Children of the Mist
In a village hidden in the mist-shrouded Northwest Vietnamese mountains resides an indigenous Hmong community, home to 12-year-old Di, part of the first generation of her people with access to formal education. A free spirit, Di happily recounts her experiences to Vietnamese filmmaker Diễm Hà Lệ, who planted herself within Di's family over the course of three years to document this unique coming of age. As Di grows older, her carefree childhood gives way to an impulsive and sensitive adolescence, a dangerous temperament for what will happen next; in this insular community, girls must still endure the controversial but accepted tradition of "bride kidnapping." One night, when the young girl's parents return home from celebrating the Lunar New Year, they are shocked to find their house is silent: Di has disappeared.
Winner of the Best Directing award at IDFA, Diễm's documentary is a tender portrait of a community on the cusp between tradition and modernity, and one girl tragically stuck in the middle.
"It’s said that a film is made in the editing room, and most of the time for documentaries this rings true as the filmmaker never truly knows that which will unfold. The opposite seems to be the case here. If Diem went into this with the goal of capturing topics around women’s oppression in the Hmong community, then she’s to be commended for choosing her timing and subject perfectly. Children of the Mist is a timeless, deeply educational, moving piece of cinema. Highly Recommended." - The Sound View
- Ma Thi Di
Q & A with director Hà Lệ Diễm at DCTV's Firehouse Cinema
- "Extraordinary... riveting... first-rate... beautifully presented...."
- "Top 20 Documentary of 2022. Children of the Mist is deceptively restrained in its first half, but that leads to a finale that’s raw in its pain and anguish. This is sobering filmmaking that illustrates a terrible injustice and the patriarchal attitudes that keep it thriving."
- "Diem’s intimate access and sensitive approach, together with editor Swann Dubus’ keen eye for texture and detail, make for a compelling and eye-opening drama."
- "[R]emarkable...quite extraordinary...this is a very special work, illuminating, educational and deeply, profoundly emotional."
- "“Children of the Mist” is an excellent documentary that showcases an appalling phenomenon with brutal realism and through a rather artful approach."
- "[H]arrowing...Diễm’s fly-on-the-wall approach allows her to capture heart-wrenching moments...."
- "Diem is told not to interfere, but at one crucial moment, she must. It’s an upsetting scene, though one senses that without the presence of the camera, Di would have fared far worse."
- "[A]n empathetic and moving portrait of a fractured childhood...."
- "[There is] no question about the skillful, artistically effective quality of this film."
- "For a Western audience, Children of the Mist does what a documentary should do. The filmmaker educates and entertains with a profoundly human story about the life of a young woman. Viewers will become invested in what happens to Di and learn about the Hmong tradition along the way."
- "[F]ocused and heartfelt. [A]n engrossing, eye-opening and haunting doc that also serves as a poignant coming-of-age story. "
- "Beautifully shot, expertly edited, and brilliantly conceived, Children of the Mist is a stunning study of girlhood."
- "Children of the Mist offers an exceptional treatment of a difficult subject, filled with as many lovely and humorous moments as painful and dramatic ones. The documentary is expert anthropology and cinema, combined."
Awards & Recognition
Best International Film
DocAviv Film Festival
Amsterdam Int'l. Documentary Film Festival
Cinéma du Réel
Best International Documentary
Guanajuato International Film Festival
Best Documentary Feature
San Francisco Int'l. Film Festival
Documentary Competition Award
Seattle Int'l. Film Festival
New Directors/New Films
True/False Film Festival
DOXA Documentary Film Festival
Thin Line Fest
ACT Human Rights Film Festival
Jury Award - Honourable Mention for International Documentary Feature
Calgary Int'l Film Festival
Best Documentary Film
Asia Pacific Screen Awards