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The poster of “On The Streets.” © Yxineff.com

 —– Watch the film —– Đọc bài tiếng Việt —– 

Within the first twenty seconds, Khúc Tình Phố (On The Streets) is able to hold the viewers’ attention and lead them to the end of the documentary leaving them full of thoughts as their eyes turned from the screen. That is a success. In two words, ‘raw life’ is the main attraction of this 16-minute plus documentary.

The three protagonists here are the Vietnamese troubadours of the twenty-first century. They sing, dance and perform magic for entertainment in order to eventually convince people to buy their candies or pull candies. An honest life, indeed, yet one layered with underlying prejudices in Vietnamese society, at the very least. To describe the prejudices in a pretty ‘poetic’ way, they are: one, singing is a stray career; two, dancing is a sin; three, street selling is condemning work. People can think what they want, I can point you to three beautiful things I see in the lives of these young minstrels, Điền, Ti, and Bi.

First: They are positive, happy people, as seen in the documentary. One thing that seems to be much easer said than done and few can really do is to pursue one’s dream.  Điền, Ti, and Bi are doing exactly that. They choose a life that allows them to do what they love doing. This way, they are living in their dreams. No other word than ‘inspiration’ is better fit to describe what they do.

Second: They are independent. They sweat and endure cruelty from unkind people to make ends meet. That is bravery. How often does one encounter courage in everyday life? – another beauty in life here.

Third: They are completely responsible people. Being financially independent and carrying a positive attitude in life, not only do Điền, Ti, and Bi free their loved ones of worries about them but they also transmit happiness around them. I consider this quality one of the best contributions to society one can ever make. These days, as youth pop culture is professing spending money in order to save as a ‘cool’ way of showing one’s status (no surprise economic crises are sprinkling promiscuously), I am all ears and eyes to the honest lives of these modern troubadours.

To see hard work and honesty in the way Điền, Ti, and Bi instinctively eke out a living for themselves to survive, to grow, and most of all to realize their dreams, I visualize the collapse of all outdated principles in their feet. Every single one of them, however much protected by some groups or put on a pedestal by others, is conceived by people with an agenda of their own. Thus, with all due respect, perceptions of beauty and ugliness, right and wrong, low class and high class, nobleness and commonness, etc. are all socially created.

What is the need for those principles if one is already free of greed, rage, and desire? And more importantly, why do I have to follow them? (In my book, the more greed, rage, and desire one has, the more moral principles one holds.) I imagine that should Buddha, Jesus, or God be right here to watch On The Streets with us, they would not pass any moral judgment towards Điền, Ti, and Bi. And if Buddha, Jesus, or God does not judge them, no one has a right to judge them. What prejudice can you have towards them??

What I also imagine is that God will spare a teardrop on them out of love – not pity. Love, because if they have a chance to live in a more comfortable environment, their lives could be easier and they would be able to contribute more. Thus, watching On The Streets, I am dreaming of a more grounded and prosperous Vietnam where Điền, Ti, and Bi were better appreciated.

As dreams are free, I can dream whatever I want. Yet, who am I to say their imagined lives could be better than the current ones!

—– Watch the film —– Read the Vietnamese version —–