Madam Phung's Last Journey

Mar 13, 2016

(Nguyễn Thị Thấm, Vietnam, 2014, 87 min)

Seattle premiere!

A former monk who left monastic life because "I saw beautiful fags praying, and felt like running away," Madam Phung is a canny businesswoman who got her start as a singer, and saved her money in the form of gold bars she would bury in the ground. Now she is something of a den mother to her largely transgender troupe - berating them when they drink or fight too much, warning them to stay out of trouble, and dealing with local police and occasionally hostile locals when necessary.

It's the classic carny existence: long hours; setting up and tearing down the stage; exhorting the crowd to buy raffle tickets and play games; putting on a show. But the people we meet in Madam Phung’s Last Journey are not your ordinary fairground workers. “Can’t you just be yourself, without the knives?” is a gem of a line. Activities like guinea pig roulette are not uncommon. This verite documentary by Nguyễn Thị Thấm takes us on a year-long ride with an itinerant troupe of cross-dressing performers, led by Madam Phung, as they travel the remote southern regions and central highlands of Vietnam.

"Madam Phung is, at 40, a star, an impresario and a protector of a collection of slim-hipped boys with glittering eye shadow, extreme false lashes and marabou headpieces." —The New York Times


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