What might life be like for a public school student in Saigon who hails from a less well-off family?
This question is pondered in An ordinary schoolgirl, a new short film from Saigon-based visual director Morgan Ommer. The 3:12 video follows Minh*, a 15-year-old student, as she walks from her school in District 1 to her small apartment, shared with her mother and two siblings, in a District 4 tenement building.
Working in collaboration with Saigon Children’s Charity (SCC), Ommer and his team sought to highlight the contrasts between Minh’s life — filmed at first through hand-held tracking shots — and Saigon’s ever-growing skyline, including a time-lapse looking out from Saigon Pearl over the Thu Thiem Bridge.
The deft camera follows Minh as she crosses Vo Van Kiet Avenue and then Cau Mong, pausing to take in District 4’s increasingly busy cityscape. While a shot of the Landmark 81 illustrates Saigon’s economic power, Minh’s four-member family has just nine square meters of living space. The intimate shots of their cramped apartment — where a motorbike sits in the kitchen — starkly contrast sweeping shots of the megacity outside.
“We worked on the concept for a few days, then we went to check out the locations,” Ommer said in an email. “The actual shoot took two days. Post-production took longer.”
The video is also meant to convey the work that SCC does with young people like Minh. “Every year, we support 12,000 children like Minh, Linh and Hai [Minh’s sister and brother] with scholarships, training, access to new schools, or autism education,” Angelique Nguyen, head of fundraising and communication at SCC, explained in an email.
She continued: “Education is proven to help break the cycle of poverty. Many children in Vietnam have difficulties pursuing an education and are at risk of dropping out of school due to barriers such as poverty, geography, knowledge, and disability. SCC removes barriers to education by providing scholarships — including tuition fees, books, rice, uniforms, stationery and social care — to children from disadvantaged backgrounds from primary school to university.”
For Ommer, the video’s contrast is key: “Poverty is not necessarily apparent in a metropolis such as Ho Chi Minh City. Yet it exists and should not be ignored.”
Check out An ordinary schoolgirl below:
*Not her real name.
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