Children of the Mist. 2021. Vietnam. Directed by Diễm Hà Lệ. In Hmong and Vietnamese; English subtitles. 90 min.
In her extraordinary feature debut, which resulted in a Best Directing award in the International Competition at IDFA 2021, Vietnamese filmmaker Diễm Hà Lệ nestles her camera in with a family—members of the indigenous Hmong ethnic minority—living in the country’s northern mountainous region. Here, cherubic 12-year-old Di plays with her friends among the mist-enshrouded hills and goes to school, one of her people’s first generation with such access to education. However, the free-spirited Di is also forced to enter adulthood prematurely when she is subject to an unsettling matrimonial custom that creates rifts in her family and threatens to alter her future forever. Tender yet tough to shake, Diễm’s documentary immerses the viewer in a traditional world teetering on the brink of modernity, privileging us to know a young woman caught in the middle.