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Letters from Panduranga

Run Time

35 mins

Letters from Panduranga was developed in response to the Vietnamese government’s plan to build the country’s first nuclear power plants in Ninh Thuân. This is a province once known as Panduranga and a spiritual centre for the ancient matriarchal Cham culture, now an ethnic minority in the country. The Cham indigenous culture originated almost two thousand years ago, and Panduranga was the last of the Champa territories to be annexed in 1832 by the kingdom of Dai Viêt, present-day Vietnam.

Nguyễn’s film thinks through the marginalisation and erasure of indigenous history and experience, alongside media censorship of ecological destruction and injustice. Responding to this censorship in the form of letters, she situates the film between the macro of these power structures and the micro ecologies of specific places, details and personal stories.

Questioning her position as an artist and outsider to the Cham community, the film investigates distance and proximity. Through the letters, two voices both representative of Nguyễn, address the crossing of distances; of lands, time, the camera lens, and the space between this community and themselves. The two voices hesitate at their own roles as narrators. The film asks what is carried across such distance by people and memory, quietly exploring how history lives in the present.

The audience’s attention is guided between the background and the foreground. As Nguyễn states in one interview: “The only way for me to tell the story is to talk about two stories at once: the intimate story of the Cham and the wider story of colonialism, war, contemporary politics and the position of the artist”[1]. Contemplating the relational dynamic between the subject and the lens, an ongoing question in Nguyễn’s work, the voice in the film says: “Nothing feels right”.

Addressing the unease of fiction and documentary filmmaking, and the politics of representation in art, Letters from Panduranga asks the perhaps unanswerable question of how to tell a story. —Christina Demetriou

[1] Nguyen Trinh Thi – interview: ‘I want to unpick the way we look at things’, Studio International, 18/02/2019

Letters from Panduranga

Những lá thư Panduranga

An essay film in the form of a letter exchange, Nguyễn’s personal and poetic film explores the complex legacy of cultural and historical occupation, its ongoing presence in the indigenous Cham community, and her role as an artist.





Dialogue Language


Subtitle Language

Primary Contact

Nguyễn Trinh Thi


34 mins