"...viewers will be horrified that this kind of thing still goes on"

Innocence Lost

(041323) Children of the Mist is a visually impressive and tragic documentary that focuses on the Hmong, a tribe that lives in poverty in Northern Vietnam. In some of the finest moments, the camera pans to capture the immense beauty and sublime majesty of the mountainous areas. If God exists, here is the evidence.

The film was short listed by the Oscars (although it failed to get nominated), and it won the Jury Prize at the 2022 Hong Kong International Film Festival. and it sometimes is shown on PBS’s POV show. It is also out in DVD and it is streaming on Apple, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, and Google Play. The DVD includes an informative interview with the film’s director, Ha La Diem.

The region the film depicts has a tradition that the teen brides (sometimes they are even as young as twelve) are abducted in “bridenappings” by their future husbands in the Lunar New Year Celebration. The girls then spend three days or more in captivity during which time the boy hopes she will decide to marry him. Often the boy’s family is complicit in this whole operation. The village does not think this is a serious crime and the bride nappings are fairly commonplace (the main character’s mom and elder sister were also bride napped).

Di is the twelve-year-old protagonist in this film. She has big eyes, a warm intelligence, and a winning smile, but the only thing that seems to connect her to the modern world is her phone which she constantly texts on as well as her school. She learns about feminism in school and she finds it attractive, but it seems to have no relation on her traditional life, and she finds it hard to reconcile it with her controlled life. Also, although she is the first person in her family to get educated, she must prove to her skeptical parents that her education is valuable. In her (and many others) countries education is considered mostly as a way to make males more employable.

She belongs to the Hmong, a tribe in which the girls often get married at shockingly young ages. Although the director is not particularly judgmental, viewers will be horrified that this kind of thing still goes on. As it turns out Di is engaged to a much older man but she innocently flirts with the not terribly intelligent Vang on the phone who thinks her flirtation is serious. One day Wang, who is a not too smart boy with a swagger picks her up on his scooter and kidnaps her. The kidnapper Vang is confused himself and he is driven by dark impulses he cannot understand. At one point he even says, “I don’t know why I kidnapped her I am still a child.”

The director spent three years with Di’s family, she was also from an ethnic minority that had their own customs so she could relate to the girl’s story. Like Michael Moore in Roger and Me, the director, Ha La Diem sometimes takes part in the story, and she tries to convince the kidnappers to release the girl and let her decide what she wants to do without any coercion.

I would have rated this film higher (at least three and a half or four stars) if it has been shorter. There is only enough great interviews and good material here for a whole full-length film. What could have been a great sixty-minute TV episode ended up being a merely good feature film.

Both adults and young people would gain much cross cultural understanding from this film which will take them to another world that is so different it is almost alien. Also, the film is easy to find and it is definitely worth seeking out.

In Hmong and Vietnamese, subtitled in English.

Directed by:    Ha La Diem
Released:    4/14/22 (USA)
Length:    92 minutes
Rating:    Not Rated
Available On:    Apple, Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, and
 Google Play

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to and His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

CHILDREN OF THE MIST © 2023 Varan Vietnam
All Rights Reserved

Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.


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