Dust of Life | Chicago Reader

Dust of Life

Boys whose fathers were U.S. soldiers are arrested by the communist army on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in 1975 and sent to a reeducation camp, where they endure privation and brutality as part of a program that serves only to turn many of them against one another. Thirteen-year-old Son (Daniel Guyant) is assigned to make a list of the names and former occupations of all the internees, many of whom were petty thieves. On his own, he also records the names of the scores of children he discovers have been buried in makeshift graves at the edge of the camp. He befriends a boy who calls himself Bob (Gilles Chitlaphone), and a much younger boy, Little Hai (Jehan Pages), who displays an eerily precocious capacity for leadership and self-sacrifice, and together the three devise a plan to escape. Director Rachid Bouchareb, who wrote the screenplay with Bernard Gesbert, makes effective ironic use of the beautiful landscapes against which the boys' suffering is depicted and gently telegraphs each tragic plot point without preempting its emotional impact (1994). Based on the autobiographical novel La colline de Fanta by Duyen Ahn.

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