The problem with “Children of the Mist” isn’t Bride Kidnappings. It’s perpetuating prejudices.
.Recently, I was given the opportunity to pre-screen the documentary Children of the Mist and then later on, sit in a Q&A with the filmmaker, Ha Le Diem. This film is being put up for Oscar nomination and has a bit of Oscar buzz. It is “shortlisted” as one of 15 up for Oscar nomination as a Documentary Feature Film.
But funny enough, for a film about Hmong people, nobody thought to ask Hmong people what they thought about it. Hm.
The film is about a 15-year-old girl, Di, who belongs to the indigenous cultural minority hill tribes of Vietnam. Black Hmong, to be specific. The filmmaker — who is Vietnamese Tay (the irony there) and Chinese mix — follows the Hmong girl for three years, finally ending when the girl is bride-napped by a teenage boy to become his wife.
This has been a long-standing tradition in these rural communities and among these hill tribes. Time and modern standards have yet to fully catch up to them. Oftentimes, it’s against the will of the girl and could be extremely tricky to break out of. Once it happens, there is a lot of family pressure on the young woman to give in and go through with it. Not all bride-napped brides are underage nor are all of them unplanned or non-consensual. This doesn’t excuse the antiquated, misogynistic practice, but does balance out the “child” portion of it a bit. I’m not trying to excuse the practice either. I’m just providing a more balanced view of it.
According to tradition, it’s frowned upon for the young woman’s parents to intervene. Instead, that duty then falls upon the girl’s sisters, cousins, and friends.
Yep, it’s layered in misogyny and it’s awful and traumatizing for those who do not consent. Nobody is disputing that. However, the problem with this film isn’t the bride-napping.
It’s everything else.
The film opens with the filmmaker’s narration about how she “feared I would lose you,” talking about Di, our protagonist. We’re following shots of Di climbing rocks on a fog-filled mountainside. It’s beautiful, lush, and green. Di is this…