Huddersfield movie-maker to premiere at esteemed film festival

The film’s soundtrack is to be performed live as a ‘cine-concert’ and contains rare footage from archives in Hanoi – find the trailer at the bottom of the article!

Dust & Metal will receive its world premiere at this year’s Sheffield DocFest with a live soundtrack performance at Sheffield’s City Hall.

The film will screen in the form of a ‘cine-concert’ with the film’s new electronic score performed live by Vietnamese artist Xo Xinh.

The premiere will take place on Monday 27 June from 8pm at the magnificent Memorial Hall in Sheffield City Hall. DUST & METAL (CÁT BỤI & KIM LOẠI) presents stories of ‘freedom’ in Vietnam, past and present, told through the lens of the country’s ubiquitous mode of transport: the motorbike.

Stepping away from Hollywood’s portrayals of the American/Vietnam War, Dust & Metal offers an unorthodox perspective of Vietnam.

Through a unique partnership with the Vietnam Film Institute to digitise rare archive film, this Vietnamese-British project funded by the British Council is an unmissable audiovisual live cinema experience. Through the repositioning of difficult-to-access archive film, contemporary footage, and a live score composed and performed by Xo Xinh, Dust & Metal will make rare archive film available to new audiences and illuminate unfamiliar histories of Vietnam.

In 2021, The British Council provided Dust & Metal with £50,000 in funding from their Digital Collaboration Fund, enabling the completion of the film in the face of the significant barriers posed by the pandemic. To complete the film in Vietnam, the Live Cinema UK-produced project partnered with the Vietnam Film Institute and Hanoi-based film collaborative TPD: The Centre for Assistance and Development of Movie Talents, to remotely produce this innovative archive documentary, sharing never-before digitised archive materials between Vietnam and the UK. Dust and Metal is the second feature from Yorkshire-born director Esther Johnson.

Both cycles and motorbikes are invaluable for navigating Vietnam’s ‘hẻm’ alleyways too narrow for cars. The current independence and freedom of Vietnam motorbike culture reminded me of Hồ Chí Minh’s famous quote, ‘Nothing is more precious than freedom and independence’.

Esther Johnson, Director Dust & Metal

Speaking of the project, Esther said: “Much of my work is concerned with uncovering alternative social histories and this project is all about stories connected to Vietnam’s unique relationship with the motorbike. On first arrival in Vietnam, I was hypnotised by the swarm of motorbikes and was exhilarated getting around Hà Nội on the back of a bike. Bikes are such a powerful symbol of Vietnam’s history: the popularity
of motorbikes now replacing the mass bicycle use in the 1950-70s that was crucial for the transportation of supplies during the war in Vietnam.

Both cycles and motorbikes are invaluable for navigating Vietnam’s ‘hẻm’ alleyways too narrow for cars. The current independence and freedom of Vietnam motorbike culture reminded me of Hồ Chí Minh’s famous quote, ‘Nothing is more precious than freedom and independence’. I am honoured that Dust & Metal has been selected to premiere at the eminent Sheffield DocFest, in the city where I am Professor of Film and Media Arts at Sheffield Hallam University.

Dust & Metal has been a real labour of love with the majority of production completed throughout the particularly difficult conditions of the pandemic. I have been fortunate to be able to work with an amazing group of collaborators, including the first partnership between an artist-filmmaker and the Vietnam Film Institute; a film crew via TPD Centre for the Development of Movie Talents in Hanoi; a dazzling score by Vietnamese composer Xo Xinh; and the expertise and enthusiasm of Live Cinema UK. It’s heartening to know that this kind of work has been funded by the British Council and I am indebted to them for believing in my film concept. I cannot wait to share the work with audiences and hope that they are inspired by the magic of Vietnam as much as I have been.”

Dust & Metal is the first feature project to be produced by Live Cinema UK, with founder Lisa Brook as producer. Lisa’s previous short and mid-length credits include The Unfilmables live score project with BAFTA and Oscar-nominated composer Mica Levi and her sister Francesca
directing, and a recent lockdown commission with Haiku Salut recording new scores to shorts from the BFI Archive, later performed live at screenings in Manchester and Kendal. Dust & Metal is a major step forward for Live Cinema UK and the art form of live cinema.

Says Lisa Brook, producer of Dust & Metal and director of Live Cinema UK: “Since the founding of Live Cinema UK in 2014, I’ve wanted to work towards creating a feature film which builds on the concept of a live score at point of production, with the idea of a live soundtrack performance shaping the creative direction of the project from the outset.

“I first fell in love with live cinema when working on live soundtrack events for Sheffield DocFest 10 years ago, and it’s amazing to be bringing our first feature back to where our journey began. I didn’t think our first feature would end up being co-produced from the other side of the world during a pandemic of course, but the British Council have shown their trust in us being able to achieve this with Dust & Metal. Creating a focus on the cine-concert for the initial run is something we don’t think we could have achieved with traditional production funding routes for a documentary but is a route that British Council Arts teams – both in the UK and Vietnam – have been incredibly supportive of during project development. This has been integral in realising the final project during the most testing of times.”

Tickets for the premiere can be purchased here.

Dust & Metal is now seeking festival engagements, sales representation and distribution in the UK, Europe, Asia and North America. All enquiries: lisa@livecinema.org.uk.

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