7:00 PM | Thursday, September 21

Madam Phung's Last Journey (Chuyen Di Cuoi Cung Cua Chi Phung)

Regina Public Library Film Theatre - 2311 12 Ave, Regina

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Nguyen Thi Tham
86 minutes

"I saw beautiful fags praying, and felt like running away," explains former monk Madam Phung. After leaving the monastery, Madam Phung, a canny businesswoman, got her start as a singer and saved her money in the form of gold bars she buried in the ground. Now the den mother to a largely gay and transgender troupe, she berates them when they drink or fight too much, warns them to stay out of trouble and deals with local police and hostile locals when necessary.

Theirs is the classic carny existence: long hours on the road; setting up and tearing down the stage; exhorting the crowd to buy raffle tickets and play games; putting on a show. But the people we meet in Madam Phung's Last Journey are not your ordinary fairground workers.

This verite documentary takes viewers on a year-long ride with an itinerant troupe of cross-dressing performers, led by Madam Phung, as they travel the remote southern regions and central highlands of Vietnam.

Madam Phung's Last Journey also captures Madam Phung at a critical moment in her life. Now 40, she is haunted by fears of ageing, concerned with fixing bad karma, and worried about what might happen to her troupe after she is gone. From dressing rooms to tour buses to on-stage performances, director Nguyen Thi Tham’s feature-length debut conveys the remarkable rapport that she developed with the performers. Her subjects share their fears, expose their vulnerabilities, and talk about the challenges of being gay in Vietnam, from employment discrimination to facing audiences who might just as easily throw rocks at the performers as try to hit on them during the show.