Documaker Tom Zubrycki illuminates an intriguing Vietnam War footnote with his account of Hanoi National Conservatory of Music students and instructors who were relocated out of harm’s way for eight years during the protracted conflict. Originally produced for Australian television, “Vietnam Symphony” likely will encore on many international broadcast and cable venues.
Pic focuses on a representative handful of the estimated 500 musicians who were shipped off to Xuan Phu — a tiny village not far from Hanoi — during the height of the U.S. bombing. Interviewees eloquently recall the rigors of day-to-day life on a “campus” consisting of underground classrooms and rehearsal halls connected by tunnels. Zubrycki skillfully utilizes archival footage to illustrate the anecdotes — a surprise visit by Ho Chi Minh is fondly recalled — and includes amusing comments from villagers who viewed their long-term visitors with equal measures of bemusement and befuddlement. Cellist Vu Huong, a vet conservatory instructor, pointedly disapproves of career path taken by his son, a jazz musician who hosts a music quiz show on Vietnam TV. But father and son appear to bond as Vu Huong prepares for a reunion concert in Xuan Phu.
— Joe Leydon