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DUST OF LIFE

France / Algeria, 1994 (MIFF 1995, Youth Film Festival)

Director: Richard Bouchareb

Dust of Life begins where many accounts of Vietnam end-after the fall of Saigon. In 1975 when the Communist army defeated the South Vietnamese forces, American soldiers made a quick exit leaving behind thousands of Amerasian children. Regarding their Western blood as problematic, the Communist govern­ment subsequently launched a 're-education program' for these abandoned children. Dust of Life centres on Son, the child of an African-Amer­ican soldier and a Vietnamese woman who is scooped off the streets of Saigon and along with orphans, pickpockets and other petty thieves transported to a political indoctrination camp. The young prisoners are forced to work clearing land, their thoughts of escape stifled by 'Fanta Hill' -the nearby cemetery named for the brand of soda bottles marking the graves of those who attempted flight. Made by acclaimed Algerian-French director Rachid Bouchareb (Cheb), Dust of Life is a film of exquisite visual power-both in its use of wide-lens cinematogra­phy to capture the lush jungles of Vietnam, and in the intimacy it creates with its young charac­ters. Based on Duyen Ahn's novel Fanta Hill, the film is a compelling exploration of the aftermath of the Vietnam war.

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