Love, Dad


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Love, Dad
"This is striking, innovative, affecting." | Photo: Diana Cam Van Nguyen

Mily Tati, originally, but perhaps better starting with 'Ahoj'. Postcards in sequence, successive, dates changing, stamps sometimes enhanced with an extra cent, postmarks approximately distributed in what would be the same location by description but is only just not the same location in detail.

Postcards from prison. "I didn't know exactly what was going on" but we're given the chance to find out. Spiralling the camera, a loop around an argument, a conflict orbital that ends with eyes and tears. Not always animated, and even then often interpolatively. A room of white and grey might be matte painting but is also a space that a letter can cross. Distances geographic and cultural, historic and gendered. Archaic fears. Cut paper concerns.

In drawn hands small trees flourish, dreams of desert dodgems and destroyed dojos, an echo of a neverending story through the window of an unrealisable train. The slow rocking of the edge of torn paper, an artefact of size and shape. This is a big topic for a letter, one whose impact drowns a chorus of doppelgangers.

Diana Cam Van Nguyen's film is not just technically complex, an intersection of animation and action that makes collision of collage, the force of the layerings of experience, expectation. In an animated piece about families, there are various traditions at play in the presence of a credit for (a) production baby.

This is a film that finds space for something meditative through intermediation, but its autobiographical nature gives it not just power but weight. In Q&A at 2022's Glasgow Short Film Festival, Cam Van Nguyen said that this was her first film were preparation was more painful than production, a part of the process where its personal nature had impact on each side. This examination of relationship was praised for making use of the strength of animated documentary for its ability to make something beautiful of the hard-hitting. There are techniques that were in effect invented for this film, or at the very least reinvented.

The processes of movement around real photographs of real actors to recreate and capture motion has echoes of the differently virtual camera of Matrix-style bullet-time, but this adds further dimensionality to it in a way that is as much a way of showing as it is a way of showing off. This is a further animated documentary for this director, but as a showcase for talent it reminded me in part of Children of Men's sequence with the camera in the car. A moment of beauty made more so by the fact that it requires unparalleled technical excellence, an artistic leap as confident as those of the gymnasium.

This is striking, innovative, affecting. In its use of the letters from her father as source, the repetition not just of the words but the shapes within them, the patterns and passage of time are given space to develop. Beyond that though, through voice and vision, we are brought along as a complex relationship is explored to great effect. That understanding of technique is matched with an empathy. Revealing that through development and production she had been undergoing therapy could rightly be considered bravery, but in something this autobiographical care by the film-maker must also be care of the film-maker. In every aspect that care has been rewarded with quality.

Reviewed on: 27 Mar 2022
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Love, Dad packshot
An author rediscovers love letters her dad used to write to her from prison. That love seems to be gone now. She decides to write back in hope to find the connection again.

Director: Diana Cam Van Nguyen

Writer: Lukas Janicik, Diana Cam Van Nguyen

Starring: Linh Duong, Hong Nhung The Thi, Le Hoai Trung

Year: 2021

Runtime: 13 minutes

Country: Czech Republic


GSFF 2022

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