Determined to earn her place in the big city, Trinh, a good-hearted countryside girl enters the world of Saigon’s migrant workers and meets Vi, a jealous colleague, who will make accusations that could ruin Trinh’s reputation for a successful life in the big city.
The Girl From Dak Lak is a powerful social drama with a naturalist tone. The story is inspired in the real life of a girl, aged 11, who moved to Saigon with only 300,000VND ($15) in her pocket all by herself.
I was fascinated with her experience and soon became more interested in similar stories of rural immigrants that pursue The Saigon Dream.
The film will not try to make the audience feel sorry or sympathy for any of the characters. It will take distance and will just show the daily routine of Trinh and her struggle to find her place in Saigon.
Trinh is the main character of the film, which adopts her point of view as the only way to inform the audience about the events that occur in her life. Anything that happens outside Trinh’s perception will not be caught by the camera.
The protagonists of The Girl From Dak Lak are non-professional actors. We will be looking for actors who share similar lifestyles with the characters. The acting will be natural and actors will not memorise lines from the script.
The camera will follow Trinh around the hectic Saigon. In order to make the experience more claustrophobic, the aspect ratio will tend to the square, with Trinh in the centre. The spectator will focus on her and not on the details around the screen.
Saigon is a city full of noises. Motorbike horns, cars, street vendors advertising their products, cocks crowing, numerous construction sites, improvised street karaokes… All these will fill the screen to make the experience more realistic.
Trinh comes from a a very small town in the province of Dak Lak. A tough childhood with a strict mother made her docile and obedient. However, she is strong in her decision of going to Saigon, abandoning a less prosperous future.
Trinh’s colleague at the restaurant also arrived to Saigon 2 years ago from the Mekong Delta. When she first arrived she was shy and humble, but after all this time of working in the city she has become a different woman.
Huy is a young man who dropped out of school young. He currently delivers ice to some restaurants in the district. He is desperate for money since he has to look after his ill grandfather. Smoke, beer and gambling are part of his daily routine.
With a few foldable metal tables and low plastic stools, the restaurant is open to the street and the noise dominates the space. The walls are not as clean as they used to be when the restaurant opened a few years ago, and some promotional photos are hanging. The restaurant also counts with a small kitchen area and a back space where the workers wash the dishes.
The traffic is intense and Trinh finds it difficult to cross the road. The facades of the buildings are a continuum of different small businesses, from nail painting to locksmiths. People wait for their customers outside their shops smoking and gossipping. The sidewalk is narrow and sometimes bikes are in the way, hampering Trinh’s walks.
Mai Huyền Chi
Director & Scriptwriter
Vinh Phúc Nguyễn
Director of Photography
Lương Đức Thạnh
Võ Nguyên Đán
Nguyễn Hoàng Thông
Lương Bá Hùng