Dust & Metal

Dust & Metal is the first feature project to be produced by Live Cinema UK, and is a major step forward for Live Cinema UK and the artform of live cinema.

Dust & Metal (CÁT BỤI & KIM LOẠI) presents stories of ‘freedom’ in Vietnam past and present told through the lens of the country’s ubiquitous mode of transport: the motorbike. Stepping away from Hollywood’s portrayals of the American/Vietnam War, DUST & METAL offers an unorthodox perspective of Vietnam. Through a unique partnership with the Vietnam Film Institute to digitise rare archive film, this Vietnamese-British project funded by the British Council is an unmissable audio-visual live cinema experience.  Through the repositioning of difficult to access archive film, contemporary footage, and a live score composed and performed by Vietnamese artist Xo Xinh, Dust & Metal will make rare archive film available to new audiences and illuminate unfamiliar histories of Vietna

Funding & Production

In January 2021, The British Council announced that Dust & Metal (Bụi và Kim loại), the second feature from director Esther Johnson (Asunder 2016), would receive funding of £50,000 from their Digital Collaboration Fund, enabling completion of the film in the face of significant barriers posed by the pandemic.

With production disrupted and travel not possible to complete the film in Vietnam, the Live Cinema UK-produced project partnered with the Vietnam Film Institute and Hanoi-based film collaborative TPD: The Centre for Assistance and Development of Movie Talents, to remotely produce an innovative archive documentary, sharing never-before digitised archive materials between Vietnam and the UK. Dust & Metal utilised archive and newly shot footage to bring real stories of freedom in Vietnam past and present to the screen, through the unique relationship with the country’s ubiquitous mode of transport: the motorbike. 

The work led new ground for the repositioning of, and accessibility to, rare archive film: in the vein of Johnson’s first feature Asunder, Dust & Metal comprises primarily archive footage alongside original footage from Johnson, shot during initial production in Vietnam in late 2019.

World Premiere

Dust & Metal received its World Premiere at Sheffield DocFest 2022 with a live soundtrack performance at Sheffield’s City Hall. The film was screened in the form on a “cine-concert” with the film’s new electronic score performed live by Vietnamese artist Xo Xinh. The premiere too place on Monday 27 June at the magnificent Memorial Hall in Sheffield City Hall.

Says Esther Johnson, director of Dust & Metal:

Much of my work is concerned with uncovering alternative social histories and this project is all about stories connected to Vietnam’s unique relationship with the motorbike. On first arrival in Vietnam, I was hypnotised by the swarm of motorbikes and was exhilarated getting around Hà Nội on the back of a bike. Bikes are such a powerful symbol of Vietnam’s history: the popularity of motorbikes now replacing the mass bicycle use in the 1950-70s that was crucial for the transportation of supplies during the war in Vietnam. Both cycles and motorbikes are invaluable for navigating Vietnam’s ‘hẻm’ alleyways too narrow for cars. The current independence and freedom of Vietnam motorbike culture reminded me of Hồ Chí Minh’s famous quote, ‘Nothing is more precious than freedom and independence.

Says Lisa Brook, producer of Dust & Metal and director of Live Cinema UK: 

Since the founding of Live Cinema UK in 2014, I’ve wanted to work towards creating a feature film which builds on the concept of a live score at point of production, with the idea of a live soundtrack performance shaping the creative direction of the project from the outset. Creating a focus on the cine-concert for the initial run is something we don’t think we could have achieved with traditional production funding routes for documentary but is a route that British Council Arts teams – both in the UK and Vietnam – have been incredibly supportive of during project development. This has been integral in realising the final project during the most testing of times.

Dust & Metal is now seeking festival engagements, sales representation and distribution in the UK, Europe, Asia, and North America. All enquiries: lisa@livecinema.org.uk.


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