Ngo Quang Hai's "Pao's Story" is a contemplative but overlong coming-of-age tale set among the Hmong people, an ethnic minority indigenous to the mountains of North Vietnam. Pic and actress snagged Golden Kite awards at home, but failed to score at the box office.

Helmer-scripter Ngo Quang Hai’s debut feature, “Pao’s Story, is a contemplative but overlong coming-of-age tale set among the Hmong people, an ethnic minority indigenous to the mountains of North Vietnam. Based on true events and told through the eyes of the serenely beautiful Do Thi Hai Yen (star of “The Quiet American” and Ngo’s wife), pic’s convoluted plot about heroine’s two mothers is not exactly a thrill ride, but magnificent scenery, colorful costumes and authentically exotic players make for a restful ethnographic jaunt. Pic and actress snagged Golden Kite awards — the Vietnamese equivalent of an Oscar — at home, but failed to score at the box office.

Pao’s ethnicity does not play a dramatic part in her story. Instead, hers is a universal story about letting go of resentments based on childhood memories, as multiple revelations alter her perception of the past. But ultimately, even these lessons of maturity serve as a pretext to experience the widescreen vistas and graceful rhythms of a timeless rural existence, shepherded by an especially beautiful woman in a fetching folkloric getup.

Pao's Story

Vietnam

Production

A Vietnam Cinema Department/Feature Film Studio #1 production. (International sales: Vietnam Media Corp., Hanoi.) Produced by Dang Tat Binh. Directed, written by Ngo Quang Hai, inspired by a short story by Do Bich Thuy.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Cordelia Beresford; editor, Tony Norton; music, Nguyen Thien Dao, Quoc Trung. Vietnamese dialogue. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (First Film Competition), Aug. 30, 2006. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Do Thi Hai Yen, Nguyen Nhu Quynh, Do Hoa Thuy, Ly Thanh Kha.
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