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The Story of Ones

Like entering a roomful of stories, the sound of the Vietnamese state radio introduces us into the city life of Hanoi.

2011 | 5 - 10 | City Life | Documentary | Observational | Vietnam

The story of one could be an experience for all. Telling these stories is the mission of Pham Ngoc Lan, young Vietnamese photographer, video artist and filmmaker who made his directorial debut with the observational short The Story of Ones, screened at the 2012 Visions du Réel in Nyon and CPH:DOX in Copenhagen. Utilizing the banality and easy moralism of state radio broadcasts, Lan explores the private of ordinary citizens creating a funny and poignant contrast.

Born in Hanoi in 1986, Pham Ngoc Lan studied urban design and urban planning from 2004 to 2009 at Hanoi Architecture University (HAU). Inspired by the paradox of all living things, Lan describes himself as “an urban life observer rather than an artist or urban designer.” Like a metropolitan hobo, a flâneur à la Benjamin changing with the times and with the city, he uses photography, videos and short films to explore the whimsical respects of human life.

In a series of eight tableaux in bleached-out colours, these lonely city dwellers look in front of the camera. From lifestyle programming to call-in shows, from radio dramas to love letters, the soundtrack of their lives guides us into different worlds. A bus stuck in the traffic and mobility news, a man and his dog between state claims and listeners’ confessions, two generations of women and a harrowing radio play, the solitude on Mekong and moving poems, a huge library and a love triangle, the inside of a factory and a pop song. The Story of Ones gives a face and a sense of place to the unseen.

Lan recently completed his latest short, Another City: the project intertwines three predicaments – a drenched middle-aged woman taking off her wig; a young man bursting into tears in a karaoke room surrounded by tropical landscape wallpaper; a young woman trying to wipe a smear off of the wedding dress she’s wearing – and will premiere in Official Competition at 2016 Berlin Film Festival.

Alessandro Zoppo

Alessandro Zoppo

Alessandro Zoppo

Editor-in-Chief @ Good Short Films

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