REAL Documentary Film Festival Laurels
Dust and Metal


2022 // 82′ // Vietnam //
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directed, written and edited by
Esther Johnson

produced by
Lisa Brook (LIVE cinema UK) and Esther Johnson

narrated by
Nguyễn Lan Hương

music by
Xo Xinh

sound design by
Nguyễn Nhung

production partners
Centre for Assistance and Development of Movie Talents (TPD)
Vietnam Film Institute

funded by
British Council

Screenings with Live Score performed by Xo Xinh

As part of Star Nhà Ease: Vietnamese Cinema Season

FACT, Cinema in the City Pagoda Arts, Liverpool 19.05.24 — plus Q&A with Director Esther Johnson and composer Xo Xinh

MAC: Midlands Arts Centre Birmingham 17.05.24 — plus Q&A with Director Esther Johnson and composer Xo Xinh

Rich Mix London 16.05.24 — plus Q&A with Director Esther Johnson and composer Xo Xinh

Viet Nam Premiere

Presented as part of the British Council UK/Viet Nam Season celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the 30th anniversary of the British Council’s presence in Viet Nam.

The Shade, Nam Thi House 152 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Quận 1, TP. HCMC, Viet Nam 20.10.23 — plus Q&A with Director Esther Johnson and composer Xo Xinh

Monsoon Music Festival 2023, Khán phòng Ngụy Như Kon Tum 19 Lê Thánh Tông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Viet Nam 17.10.24 — plus Q&A with Director Esther Johnson and composer Xo Xinh

UK Premiere

Sheffield Doc/Fest Memorial Hall, Sheffield City Hall, Sheffield 27.06.22 — plus Q&A with Esther Johnson, Xo Xinh and Lisa Brook, chaired by Sheffield Doc/Fest Creative Director Raul Niño Zambrano

‘Esther Johnson’s film brings together a trove of archive and contemporary footage, set to a live score by Xo Xinh, for a thrilling, unorthodox portrait of Vietnam.’ DocFest programme

Film Festivals

46th Edition, 3 Continents Film Festival Cinema Katorza, Nantes, France, 01 + 03.12.23
Plus Q&A with Director Esther Johnson

Da Nang Asian Film Festival (DANAFF) Galaxy cinema and CGV cinema, Da Nang, Vietnam, 11.05.23 and 12.05.23

REAL Documentary Festival Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre, Leicester, 17:30, 21.04.23
Plus introduction by Director Esther Johnson

36th Leeds International Film Festival Vue, Leeds, 21:00, 09.10.22
plus Q&A with Esther Johnson and Lisa Brook, chaired by LIFF Curator Colm Mcauliffe
‘An illuminating and highly creative documentary featuring past and present stories of freedom in Vietnam, Esther Johnson’s Dust and Metal combines archive film, contemporary footage, and a stunning soundtrack to highlight an unorthodox history of Vietnam.’

Cinema Screenings

Phoenix Leicester 24.05.24

Queen’s Film Theatre Belfast 18:15, 30.05.24

Special Events

ICO Autumn Screening Days Phoenix Cinema and Art Centre, Leicester 12.11.2023 — plus introduction with Director Esther Johnson

Seagate Creative and Cultural Space Không gian văn hóa sáng tạo Cửa Biển, Hai Phong, Vietnam, 28.10.2023 — plus Q&A with Director Esther Johnson

Conference and Symposia

DUST & METAL: Alternative social histories in the Vietnam Film Institute presentation Shaking the Archives: Reconsidering the Role of Archives in Contemporary Society Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, 23—25.06.23

DUST & METAL: Unlocking the Vietnam Film Archives presentation Heritage, Community, Archives: Methods, Case Studies, Collaboration Sheffield Hallam University 12—13.06.23

DUST & METAL: a cinematic reflection on Vietnam’s love affair with motorbikes presentation 11th Annual BAFTSS Conference: Sustainable Futures: Ethics, Responsibility and Care in Film, Television, Screen Studies and Practices, University of Lincoln 04.04.23

DUST & METAL: a cinematic collage film reflecting on Vietnam’s love affair with motorbikes presentation RAI (Royal Anthropological Institute) Film Festival Conference online event 08.03.22

DUST & METAL: a cine-poem journey through Vietnam’s film heritage presentation Disrupting Dominance in the Archive London College of Communication 05.12.22

DUST & METAL: a cine-poem journey through Vietnam’s film heritage presentation Forgotten Popular Culture: Asian Cinema and Film History University of Leicester 25.05.22

DUST & METAL presentation Shadow Screens: Unmade, Unseen, Unreleased Film and Television Sheffield Hallam University and University of Nottingham 23—24.05.22

DUST & METAL and ASUNDER presentation Future-proofing Our Collections: Unleashing the Power of Archive Film London Screen Archives conference, Museum of London 12.03.20

Panel Member

Connect to Develop Vietnam’s Tourism Through Cinema 16—17.06.23
Invited by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the provincial People’s Committee in Vietnam to speak at an inaugural forum in Nha Trang to promote Vietnamese tourism through cinema. The discussion focuses on DUST & METAL and on being the first filmmaker to partner with the Vietnam Film Institute for an archive feature film.

Adventures in Archive: The challenges of using archive in films, and the drift of ownership of content to multinational corporations Real Documentary Film Festival Industry Session. Panel: Esther Johnson, Ben Reynolds, Paul Sng, Chaired by 24.04.23

Telling our Story: to explore how archives, media and artists are creating a living conversation with music heritage British Council Scotland Showcase at Celtic Connections, Glasgow. Panel: Esther Johnson (filmmaker), Danny Kilbride (Trac Cymru), Finlay McIntosh (British Library), Helena Turgel (Other Voices Festival), Chaired by Anne Martin (Singer) 25.01.23

Incorporating the Archive London Short Film Festival Industry Session RichMix London. Panel:  Esther Johnson (filmmaker) and Hussina Raja (filmmaker), Chaired by Rachel Pronger (Invisible Women) 25.01.23

New Audiences for Archive Film London Screen Archives Conference Museum of London. Panel: Jake Berger (BBC), Esther Johnson (filmmaker), Shane O’Sullivan (Kingston University), Chaired by Andy Robson (Film Hub North) 12.03.20


Star Nhà Ease: Vietnam’s Rich Cinema History Gets the Spotlight in the UK
Publication: Resonate
Journalist: Resonate Team
Date: 09.04.24

Gặp đội ngũ đứng sau “Dust & Metal” – Trải nghiệm điện ảnh trên nền nhạc sống tiên phong tại Việt Nam
Publication: Kenh 14
Journalist: Quang Vũ
Date: 31.01.2024

Phim Dust and Metal: ‘Ký ức’ của người ngoại quốc về xe máy ở Việt Nam
Publication: Vietnam Plus
Journalist: Minh Anh
Date: 25.10.2023

Trải nghiệm xem phim khác lạ với Cát bụi và kim loại
Publication: Phunu Online
Journalist: Tô Cường
Date: 23.10.2023

Dust & Metal: Trải nghiệm điện ảnh – hòa nhạc độc đáo
Publication: Tuổi Trẻ
Journalist: Hương Nhu
Date: 21.10.2023

UK film starring motorcycles, a symphony in Hanoi life
Publication: Vietnam Global
Journalist: Hanoi Times
Date: 13.10.2023

Sheffield DocFest: Dust & Metal by Esther Johnson
Publication: Business Doc Europe
Journalist: Geoffrey Macnab
Date: 25.06.2022

Hull filmmaker Esther Johnson’s film Dust & Metal explores little known stories of Vietnam
Publication: Yorkshire Post
Journalist: Yvette Huddleston
Date: 10.06.2022

Documentary Project on Vietnam’s Motorbike Culture Releases Call for Submissions
Publication: Saigoneer
Date: 22.06.2021

Vietnam film ‘Dust & Metal’ among first recipients of British Council pilot fund
Publication: Screen Daily
Journalist: Michael Rosser
Date: 21.01.2021


DUST & METAL Finalist for Hanoi Grapevine’s Finest 2023-2024 Project Award

DUST & METAL Finalist for BAFTSS 2023 Practice Research Award


A cinematic voyage through Vietnam’s enduring love affair with motorbikes

DUST & METAL (CAT BỤI & KIM LOẠI) is a creative documentary feature film combining archive film, newly shot footage and contemporary music, bringing unfamiliar stories of Vietnam past and present to the screen for the first time. Stepping away from Hollywood’s portrayals of the American/Vietnam War, Dust & Metal offers an unorthodox perspective of Vietnam told through the lens of the country’s ubiquitous mode of transport: the motorbike.

Directed by Esther Johnson, produced by Johnson and Live Cinema UK and funded by the British Council, the project was created by a unique partnership between Hanoi-based Vietnam Film Institute, and TPD: The Centre for Assistance and Development of Movie Talents. This partnership is the first of its kind in Vietnam, and Johnson the first filmmaker to be granted permission to use unseen rare film held at VFI for a full-length feature film. The project is innovative in its creative collaborative co-production methods, and exploration of repositioning seldom seen archive film to interpret marginal micro-histories.

The score was composed remotely by San Francisco-based Vietnamese electronic artist Xo Xinh, with sound design by Hanoi-based artist Nhung Nguyễn. The script integrates extracts from oral history interviews Johnson made with eminent Vietnamese filmmaker Trần Văn Thủy; and with visual artist Đặng Ái Viet.

The work takes the form of a creative poetic documentary in the vein of director Esther Johnson’s live cinema feature film ASUNDER.

For all media enquiries please contact Lisa Brook:


‘Esther Johnson’s film brings together a trove of archive and contemporary footage for a thrilling, unorthodox portrait of Vietnam, screened with live music composed by Xo Xinh.

Between tourist promotions and Hollywood films lies another Vietnam, whose stunning landscape has been evocatively captured from the country’s most accessible form of transport: the motorbike. Like her ground-breaking 2016 work Asunder, Johnson’s new film employs old and new footage in inventive ways to challenge preconceived stereotypes. It also explores the role of the motorbike – often the only suitable mode of transport for navigating Vietnam’s vast arterial system of tiny country roads – within the country’s history and culture.

Accompanying Johnson’s evocative montage is Xo Xinh’s electronic score, performed live, conveying in equal measure the film’s sense of wonder.’ — Sheffield Doc/Fest Programme

Owning a motorbike is a symbol of work, technology, flexibility, speed and escape, and permits an individual movement and enterprise. With a population of 97 million Vietnam’s city roads are packed with 45 million registered motorbikes (amongst the highest in South East Asia) — that’s almost one bike for every two people. Roads are awash with the transportation of goods of all types and sizes on the back of motorbikes, including washing machines, entire families, and chickens.

The popularity of motorcycles has replaced the mass bicycle use in the 1960/70s – then the most important method for transporting supplies during the American/Vietnam war. All forms of bikes are still invaluable for navigating Vietnam’s ‘hẻm’ alleys too narrow for cars. However, motorbikes and scooters have become the de facto mode of transportation to traverse the growing waves of traffic. The sounds of bike engines, horns and bells create a symphony of Vietnamese life.

As HaNoi aims to ban petrol/diesel motorbikes by 2030 Dust & Metal taps into current discourse in Vietnam around climate change and sustainability. Young people will be most affected by this change and companies in Vietnam are producing an array of electric scooters as an alternative form of transport.

Vietnam Premiere in Hanoi
Camera: Phạm Đình Thiện and Nguyễn Đức Minh
Editor: Phạm Đình Thiện

Filmmaking Workshops

Dust & Metal: Connections in Sound and Vision in-person workshops
Connections in Sound and Vision: Hanoi
Location: TPD Center, 18A Ngo Tat To, Dong Da, Hanoi, TBC.10.23
Connections in Sound and Vision: HCMC
Location: TBC in-person, TBC.10.23

Dust & Metal: Connections in Sound and Vision
online workshops
Creating with Sound, 20:00 VN / 14:00 UK, 09.09.23 SIGN UP HERE
Creating with Archives
, 20:00 VN / 14:00 UK, 16.09.23 SIGN UP HERE

Getting Creative with Archives: Dust & Metal Independent Directions Film Festival (INDIS) online event, 20.02.22

Make Film History Workshop Independent Directions Film Festival (INDIS) online event, 27.03.21

DUST & METAL British Council Film + Music Salon, online event 10.09.20

One Minute Screenings

Connections in Sound and Vision, Premiere screening, plus Hanoi filmmaker networking session
Meet Us in Montauk, 174 Kim Mã, phường Kim Mã, quận Ba Đình, Hà Nội, 31.10.23


Funded by British Council Digital Collaboration Fund


Film Festival Co-curation

Full Programme HERE

On the centenary of Vietnamese cinema Star Nhà Ease: Vietnamese Cinema presents a captivating collection of Vietnamese cinematic treasures, marking their debut to UK audiences in London, Birmingham and Liverpool. Co-curated by Cường Minh Bá Phạm, Esther Johnson, and Tuyết Vân Huỳnh. This season is a celebration and introduction of Vietnamese cinema to UK viewers.

Star Nhà Ease is dedicated to unveiling the rich tapestry of Vietnamese cinema to UK audiences for the first time. This initiative will focus on expanding the understanding of Vietnam’s unique cinematic identity and spotlighting the wealth of its cinematic achievements, which remain largely unrecognised in the West.

Tracing back to the 1920s, amidst a backdrop of considerable challenges and prolonged conflict, filmmakers have profoundly captured the tumultuous journey of Vietnamese people. Through their art, they have carved out a distinctive cinematic identity, establishing a voice that demands to be heard. As we approach the centenary of Vietnamese cinema in 2024, it presents a fitting moment to introduce UK audiences to a curated selection of rarely seen Vietnamese films.

Our mission is to kindle a passion for Vietnamese cinema among viewers, celebrate its rich legacy, encourage the exploration of more Vietnamese films, and stimulate discussions on the narratives shaping Vietnam and its diaspora and the intrinsic value of the films we have selected. Star Nhà Ease aims to highlight the significance of film heritage and its role in empowering underrepresented communities and voices. By doing so, we envision a scenario where individuals, who rarely see themselves reflected on screen, will be drawn to cinemas in large numbers, feeling a sense of belonging within the broader spectrum of British arts and culture.

Star Nhà Ease will present Esther Johnson’s archive essay documentary Dust & Metal (2022), which features extracts from across Vietnamese cinematic history, stemming from her field research in archives of the Vietnamese Film Institute. This will be accompanied by a live score from Xo Xinh, Vietnamese electronic music composer and performer at three dates across London, Birmingham and Liverpool. The ‘cine-concert’ is a truly international collaborative project, supported by the British Council and co-produced by TPD: The Centre for Movie Talents in Hanoi. The performances are a rare opportunity to see this unique work performed live after world premiering at Sheffield DocFest 2022 and its Vietnamese premiere at Monsoon Music Festival in 2023, as a part of the British Council UK/Viet Nam Season.

Star Nhà Ease encapsulates three themes emerging from discussions on Vietnamese film, as well as the experiences of Vietnamese people and the diaspora. The themes revolve around light, home, and emotion. “Star” was chosen because it emits light and can signify a direction; it also serves as an adjective for actors in a film. “Nhà” is the Vietnamese word for home, imbuing the title with connotations of warmth, settlement, and comfort. Including the Vietnamese language in the title was important, alongside English, hinting at code-switching—a practice common among duo and multilingual individuals in their daily lives. Lastly, “Ease,” representing a feeling, was chosen to evoke a sense of familiarity, something we aspire to achieve, eliciting emotional responses.

Star Nhà Ease: Vietnamese Cinema Season is supported by the BFI Audience Project Fund, awarding National Lottery funding, the British Council and Longdan Ltd.