Here is a strange, opaque but interesting piece from Vietnamese film-maker Minh Quý Truong: an ethno-fictional essay movie. The premise is that a space traveller of the future (in 2045) is on Mars and in contact with his father about what life was like in Vietnam 25 years ago – or rather now. We do not see any of the footage that he is supposedly filming on Mars (and finally and disconcertingly hear that it is to be abandoned, because cinema is a “joy of the past”). But we do see grainy 16mm film of various remote rural communities on Earth, in Vietnam, where the past, or rather the present, is a different country, or rather a different planet.
The narrator broods on a family treehouse built in the jungle, but more on the extraordinary lives of the Ruc people in Vietnam who suffer from discrimination, and lived in caves until very recently. He is fascinated by their sense of self, their sense of memory and history, their relationship with the world, and the way Ruc people seem to have an extraordinary recall of their childhood, and past experiences, because they are not burdened as we are by veneration of the visual image. He reflects that he cannot remember periods of his own life for which no photographs exist: “Our memories depend too much on images: photography. But their memories are stories filled with imagination.” He speaks to a woman who says she can remember being born and asks if this is a kind of communal memory (something akin to indigenous Australians’ “dream time”). But no, it is literally her own specific memory. A meditation pregnant with ideas.
The Treehouse is available on Mubi from 14 August.