Dust & Metal

Please click on image for further stills

2020 // feature-length film // Vietnam
dustandmetal.com // twitter // instagram

directed by
Esther Johnson

produced by
Live Cinema UK

DUST & METAL in-progress webinar presentation, British Council, 10.09.20

Unleashing the Power of Archive Film London Screen Archives conference, Museum of London 12.03.20

in production

Alternative stories of freedom through Vietnam’s love affair with motorbikes

Currently in production, DUST & METAL combines archive film with poetic new footage to explore alternative stories of freedom and movement through the prism of Vietnam’s enduring love affair with the motorbike.

Personal stories from individuals in Vietnam who love their motorbike inform this contemporary take on how the democratisation of bikes has enabled individual freedoms.

A live score drives us on this unique journey across four acts:
from countryside, to villages, towns and cities, revealing a Vietnam on film beyond the Hollywood narrative of war and war alone.

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 awash with 45 million registered motorbikes (amongst the highest in South East Asia) that’s almost one bike for every two people. Motorcycles and scooters are everywhere, transporting goods of all types and sizes, including washing machines, entire families, and their chickens.

The popularity of motorcycles has replaced the mass bicycle use in the 1970s – the then most important transport 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 the proposed ban. Young people will be most affected by this change and companies in Vietnam are producing electric motorbikes as an alternative form of transport.

DUST & METAL takes the form of a creative poetic documentary in the vein of director Esther Johnson’s live cinema feature film ASUNDER. Through the repositioning of difficult to access archive film, contemporary footage, and a live score, DUST & METAL will make rare archive film available to new audiences, and reveal unfamiliar cultural histories linking future and present with the past.

Initial principal photography includes shoots in Ha Noi, Saigon, Danang, Hue and Hoi An. Research into archive film shot in Vietnam has been undertaken, with oral histories recorded, and environmental sound collected for production.