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Chapter summary

Original Epigraphs

Of the following five epigraphs, only No. 2 appears in the translation

1.

“…Oh yes, our profession is indeed cowardly and insignificant. It is cowardly because, though we have many thoughts, we dare not express them, and it is insignificant because, nobody needs what we make.

The brick maker had no idea that for a long time, we have fallen into an incurable habit: hoping only to satisfy our superiors—the birth of a book, a play, or a film would have nothing to do with the values or needs of people like him. Instead, we always had to seek the approval of our superiors.

If our superiors are pleased, then all is well.
If they are not, then we must give up.
If our superiors approve, we are happy.
If our superiors disapprove, we are sad.”

(From the film The Story of Kindness, 1985)

2.

“Since a long time ago, our elders have taught us: decency used to exist in every human being, every family, every lineage, and every nation. Let us patiently wake up this quality and place it on the ancestral altars or the national grandstands, for without this, even the greatest effort and the best vision of a community would be nonsense… Let us focus our children and even adults on learning to become human beings, decent human beings, before hoping to turn them into people of power, wisdom or superiority…

That is why, in the final analysis, there is no profession, no work, and nobody in this world, who can become decent without starting first from human love, from the appreciation of human life and from concern for human suffering”

(From the film The Story of Kindness, 1985)

3.

The People! A truly sacred word! That’s why it appears everywhere. In terms of culture, we have: People’s artist, People’s bookshop, People’s teacher, People’s theatre, People’s newspaper. Among official institutions, we have: People’s Council, People’s Committee, People’s Tribunal, People’s Prosecutor Office, People’s Police, People’s Army…

But, it should be noted that there are very few films describing how People eat, how People live, how People move around and carry on their lives; especially what People think and discuss…

…Before we took power, the key characters in literature were poor people: a pull-cart worker, a newspaper boy, an underprivileged maid, a poor mother, a peddler selling some stuff at night…

Now that we have power in our hands, the poor and underprivileged people in literature have suddenly disappeared altogether.

It seems as if we are now distant from poverty or that the poor have all gone to the other world.

Living with each other like that is not only far from decent but also… awful.

(From the film The Story of Kindness, 1985)

4.

“Films made by Trần văn Thủy usually leave sad images in the memory. Sad but not tragic. Like the sadness of a nagging question: “Why must it be so?”and then “what can be done?” The sadness left in the viewer is great.

…Many people think that Trần Văn Thủy is an unconventional filmmaker. Yet, I find that this film director follows a traditional creative path. It is true that “Hanoi in Whose Eyes” (1982) and “the Story of Kindness” (1985) were like explosions creating a firestorm in Hanoi’s cinema world. And their aftershocks were felt even by international film markers. But, bravery is always a pillar of traditional artistry. And above all, the main protagonists in his films are traditional: The People.”

—Journalist Vĩnh Quyền, Lao Động Chủ nhật (Labor, Sunday issue”)

5.

When human rights are held in honor, then the people will enjoy respect and the nation will be strong.

When human rights are taken lightly, then the people will suffer disdain, and the nation will likewise be weak.

When human rights are lost entirely, then both the people and the nation will perish.

—Phan Bội Châu (1867–1940), from the web site Quốc Hội Việt Nam, June 16th 2013

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