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Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s The Boat People

Behind the Scenes
August 3, 2020

We are pleased to welcome back Vietnam-based artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen.

Screen Shot 2020-09-25 at 8.45.53 PM

He first visited in May 2018 and is back for the production of his new film The Boat People. Before filming began, he was a guest leader in our ESKWELA course on the topic of ‘Asia Pacific: Visual Histories of War and Postwar.’

We presented a film screening of The Island (2017), his short film on Pulau Bidong—an island off the coast of the Malaysian Peninsula where the artist and his family sought refuge after the Vietnam War. With the topic of Visual Histories of War and Postwar and his expertise in filmmaking, Tuan explored the representation of Vietnam and the jungle in major Hollywood mainstream films Full Metal Jacket (1987) directed by Stanley Kubrick, Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979) and focused into the relationship between geography, history, and media.

For the filming for his short film entitled, “The Boat People,” Tuan selected various landmarks in Bataan. It was in 2018 when he first visited the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRCP) in Morong which inspired him to make a film set in it. The PRPC was a camp that housed refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1980s until the 1990s. There, a museum called ‘Boat People’ museum was put up to keep and preserve archival records of the refugee camp during its beginnings, including the original boat that crashed into the shores of Morong in 1981, which had the first eleven Vietnamese refugees.

“The Boat People” is set in an unspecified future at the edge of humanity’s possible extinction. It follows a group of children led by Riana, a strong-willed, and resourceful girl, who travel the seas and collect the stories of a world they never knew through objects that survived the test of time. It dwells on the question “when do statues come alive again?” and explores the legacy of Bataan’s memory at the crossroads of materiality, temporality, and rituals in a post-human world. The group is called The Boat People and, in their travels, they find and replicate objects in wood as a way to piece together a history that they are trying to understand.

The production team was composed of cinematographer Andrew Yuyi Truong, research assistant Jane Pujols, 1st Camera Assistant Rhon Bacal, and the Bellas Artes Team. Tuan casted five local children from Bagac, Bataan as the main characters of the film. Making their film debut are Gryshyll Reyes Ilarina as Riana, Michael Mendoza Soronio, John Carlos Cruz Moris, Jescee Dheivid Taba Recinte, and Benedict Recinte Revelo. The film was shot in the different areas of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, Mt. Samat, the Nuclear Powerplant Village, and the PRCP.

Photos by  Ansperniel Aquino



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