Fifth Cinema

(Điện ảnh Thứ Năm)

Fifth Cinema begins with a quiet statement “I am a filmmaker, as you know.” That text and what follows, by Maori filmmaker Barry Barclay, who coined the term ‘Fourth Cinema’ to distinguish Indigenous cinema from the established ‘First, Second, and Third Cinema’ framework, provides structure to Nguyễn’s hybrid essay film that moves on multiple cinematic and topical terrains. Eschewing voice in favour of the written word and juxtaposing moving images of the filmmaker’s own daughter with archival images of Vietnamese women seen through the lens of the “ship’s officers”, the film slowly leads the viewer through a narrative of colonialism, indigeneity and cinematic limitations in representation. —Nguyễn Trinh Thi

Montage for Nguyễn becomes an artistic strategy; exploring multiplicities of identity and storytelling, and the different forms of mediated images that make up a personal and collective imaginary. National cultural narratives and external depictions of Vietnam sit alongside the artist’s own subjective position, and that of her daughter.

Fifth Cinema offers space and pause for reflection, to see or feel the affective gaps and what is left out between these different narratives of history. The subtitle text shows only a few words on the screen at one time. It is poetry-like and requires a closer reading: the written words diverge from the images or spoken voice of the film. Between these different registers, the artist’s voice-as-text acts as a commentary and poetic counter-narrative to dominant media images on Vietnam, both from official accounts inside the country and international media from the outside. The result is an intimate film based on subjectivity, exploring the intersection of personal and collective memory. As the subtitles of the film at one point state, “you can make a personal story out of parts of anything”.

Fifth Cinema explores the legacies carried and constructed by images, questioning who holds the camera, and what it means to be inside or outside of images. —Christina Demetriou

Director Biography

Nguyễn Trinh Thi (1973, Vietnam) is a Hanoi-based independent filmmaker and video/media artist. Nguyễn studied journalism, photography, international relations and ethnographic film in the United States. Her diverse practice has consistently investigated the role of memory in the necessary unveiling of hidden, displaced or misinterpreted histories; and examined the position of artists in the Vietnamese society. Nguyễn is the founder and director of Hanoi DOCLAB, an independent centre for documentary film and the moving image art in Hanoi since 2009. Her films and video art works have been shown at festivals and art exhibitions including Jeu de Paume (Paris); CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux; the Lyon Biennale 2015; Asian Art Biennial 2015 (Taiwan); Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial 2014; Singapore Biennale 2013; Jakarta Biennale 2013; Oberhausen International Film Festival; Bangkok Experimental Film Festival; Artist Films International; DEN FRIE Centre of Contemporary Art (Copenhagen); and Kuandu Biennale (Taipei).

Nguyễn’s film Eleven Men (Mười một người đàn ông) screened at BFMAF 2016.

Director Filmography

How to Improve the World (2021), Fifth Cinema (2018), Everyday’s the Seventies (2018), Eleven Men (2016), Vietnam The Movie (2016), Letters from Panduranga (2015), Landscape Series #1 (2013) SOLO for a Choir (2013) Que Faire (2012), Jo Ha Kyu, (2012) I Died for Beauty (2012), Song to the Front (2011), Unsubtitled (2011), Chronicle of a Tape Recorded Over (2011), Terminal (2009), Spring Comes Winter After (2009), 93 Years, 1383 Days (2008), Love Man Love Woman (2007), A Chungking Road Opening (2005)

Production Year



UK Premiere


Nguyễn Trinh Thi



Dialogue Language


Subtitle Language


Primary Contact

Nguyễn Trinh Thi