Back Arts & Culture » Film & TV » Hanoi Director's Debut 'Cu Li Never Cries' Wins Best 1st Feature at Berlin Film Festival

After Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell won the Camera D’or award at Cannes last year, this year, another independent film from Vietnam was honored at Berlinale.

Over the weekend, the Berlin International Film Festival, also known as Berlinale, unveiled the full list of prize winners after 10 days of activities and film screenings. Amongst the honorees is Cu Li Không Bao Giờ Khóc (Cu Li Never Cries) by Hanoi-based director Phạm Ngọc Lân, which won the GWFF Best First Feature Award over 15 other contenders from across the globe.

The Best First Feature category was first introduced in 2006, aiming to provide support for the next generation of filmmakers. The winner is awarded EUR50,000, to be divided between the director and producer, while the director will also receive a high-quality viewfinder. Cu Li Không Bao Giờ Khóc is produced by Nghiêm Quỳnh Trang and Trần Thị Bích Ngọc, and tells an intergenerational story of loss and uncertainties.

Nguyện (NSND Minh Châu, left) and Quang (Xuân An, right).

The plot revolves around Nguyện (NSND Minh Châu), a middle-aged Vietnamese woman who has to return to Berlin after her German ex-husband passes away to retrieve his ashes and a pygmy slow loris, or cu li in Vietnamese, the only thing he left her. Upon returning home, she discovers that her niece, Vân (Hà Phương) is rushing to have a shotgun wedding with her lover, Quang (Xuân An). The contrasting threads of solemn loss and precarious new beginnings intermingle in the film’s contemplative pace of storytelling.

Cu li is a small primate native to the Indochinese Peninsula.

Born and raised in Hanoi, Phạm Ngọc Lân graduated with a degree in urban planning at the Hanoi University of Architecture, before exploring his passion in filmmaking. The Cu Li film project has been on his mind since 2017. Lân is no stranger to Berlinale, however, as two of his short films — Another City (2016) and Blessed Land (2019) — were presented in previous festival seasons.

The Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin) is one of Europe’s three most prestigious film festivals, alongside the Venice Film Festival (Italy) and Cannes Film Festival (France).

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