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November 13–19, 2015

Chicago Premiere

Madam Phung's Last Journey
(Chuyen di cuoi cùng cua chi Phung)

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Film still: Madame Phung's Last Journey Film still: Madame Phung's Last Journey
4 stars "A visionary film"
  —Slant Magazine
"A tender story of aging, carnival-style"
  —Village Voice
"A tender portrait of his subjects who have little place in their country's society"
  —Hollywood Reporter
"[An] affecting but ultimately pretty forlorn view of a uniquely strange and very hard world"
  —Film Journal International
"As grim as it gets, Madam Phung's Last Journey is a rewarding ride"
  —Brooklyn Magazine
Recommended"Director Tham Nguyen Thi achieves an impressive degree of intimacy with her subjects"
  —Chicago Reader
"Moving... Madam Phung's Last Journey feels like a head-first glimpse into a life that we'll likely never see portrayed on screen again.
  —Gapers Block

The feature debut of 29-year-old filmmaker Tham Nguyen Thi, Madam Phung's Last Journey, follows a troupe of Vietnamese cross-dressing singers on their journey through the country's poor back roads for a year. It is the classic carny existence, putting in long hours, setting up the stage, tearing everything down again, exhorting the marks to buy raffle tickets, play games, and putting on a show. Their fold-up fairground attractions include a lottery, a miniature train ride, an inflatable house, a merry-go-round, and a shotgun aimed treacherously at members while they are performing songs and sketches.

Madam Phung's Last Journey is a poignant look at a mostly unglamorous life, featuring the struggles of the head troubadour Phung, a former monk who fell in love with another monk and embarked on this particular brand of migrant work. 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.

From change rooms, to on-stage performances, to time spent in tour buses, Tham Nguyen Thi develops a remarkable rapport with the performers. They share their fears, expose their vulnerabilities, and talk about the challenges of being gay in Vietnam: including employment discrimination and dealing with audiences who might just as easily throw rocks at the performers as try to hit on them during the show.

Directed by Tham Nguyen Thi, Vietnam, 2014, 87 mins. In Vietnamese with English subtitles.

Showtimes

  • Fri., Nov. 13 at 7 & 9 pm
  • Sat., Nov. 14 at 5, 7 & 9 pm
  • Sun., Nov. 15 at 1, 3, 5 & 7 pm
  • Mon.–Thurs., Nov. 16–19 at 7 & 9 pm
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Tickets

$10 general admission

$5 for Facets Members

The Facets Cinémathèque is located at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. Call the Cinémathèque Hotline at 773.281.4114 for the latest schedule, showtimes and updates.

For all Cinémathèque inquiries, contact Charles Coleman at 773.281.9075 or charles@facets.org.

  • John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Artworks: National Endowment for the Arts
  • Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences
  • Comer Family Foundation
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies
  • Alphawood Foundation
  • Polk Bros. Foundation