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This film is nominated for the NETPAC Award for Best Asian-Pacific Film.
In the Saigon of the 1990s, Dũng “Thunderbolt,” a taciturn and tough gangster meets Linh Phung, a young and naive performer of cải lương (a form of Vietnamese musical theatre). An unlikely bond forms between the two as it is revealed that Dũng once came from a musical troupe as well, but circumstances led him to a darker path. He must reconcile with his troubled past as he soon picks up an instrument to rekindle his former life as a musician. But, the tension mounts as his loan shark boss demands he “take care” of this theatre company, which is in deep debt and he must choose between violent retribution or to return to his musical roots.
The feature film debut of Vietnamese American director Leon Le, SONG LANG is a love letter to cải lương. A performer in this rich musical tradition, Le crafts a story that is intergenerational but also from the perspective of a Việt Kiều (overseas Vietnamese) who practices age-old traditions that are the foundation of Vietnamese communities around the world, while the motherland moved towards modernity at warp speed. It is also a love story of two men—one that is not sexual, but of a connection via music and the arts. The character of Dũng, in particular, must reconcile his past to move forward. Tradition, especially cultural ones, die as the next generation adapts and moves forward. SONG LANG is a time capsule of a certain era, one that is at the cusp of change.