Vietnamese writer-director Le Bao and Singaporean-Toronto producer Lai Weijie, who successfully collaborated on “Taste” (2021), are reuniting for the Busan Asian Project Market title “The Sea is Calm Tonight.”
“Taste,” Le’s feature debut, played at major festivals and won awards in Berlin, Singapore, Taipei, and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards.
In “The Sea is Calm Tonight”, Vietnamese boat people from 40 years ago have a miraculous encounter with today’s Rohingya refugees in their parallel journeys at sea to find peace.
“When my mother was pregnant with me, my parents lived on a barge in the middle of a big river. Whenever a strong gust of wind blew or boats crossed the river, the surface of the water would build up in waves, like the waves of the sea. When I was younger, my parents told me that they wanted my name to be Lê Biển, which means the sea. The thought of this other life with a different identity lingers in my mind,” said Le Variety.
“During post-production of ‘Taste’, I began to imagine mysterious encounters in the middle of the vast ocean, around which I would like to build the central story of the film. The film starts from “touch”, one of the five human senses (after “Taste” – my first feature film).
I then thought of a meeting between the spirits of Vietnamese boat people of 40 years ago and Rohingya refugees fleeing the present. In both cases, generations of displaced people, communities driven by the desire to find peace and a chance to live with their loved ones. To find a home.
My approach in this film is based on the belief that such encounters could happen in the past, now and in the future. It is not an illusory belief, on the contrary, from inner faith. My role is to capture the sensations of these encounters,” adds Le.
lai said Variety, “It was a natural progression to work together on ‘Taste.’ There was a real generosity with everyone involved in this film, and Bao and I trust and respect each other tremendously. We’ve been talking about it since the time we were shooting ‘Taste’.
“The Sea is Calm Tonight” is produced by E&W Films by Lai and Elizabeth Wijaya, which also produced “Pop Aye” by Sundance, Rotterdam and Zurich winner Kirsten Tan (2017) and co-produced “Vengeance Is” by Edwin, winner of the Locarno Golden Leopard. Mine, all the others pay cash” (2021).
“There are a lot of exciting projects happening in Southeast Asia and a lot of filmmakers that I respect a lot. I am cautious about what I can take on and am more comfortable participating in projects where I believe I can make a genuine and meaningful contribution. I like working on projects where there is a bit of mystery in the process,” Lai says of his project onboarding process.
Lai, a former lead programmer at the Singapore International Film Festival, has a full slate coming up. “Mongrel” by Chiang Wei Liang, developed at the Cannes Residence, Talents Tokyo and TorinoFilmLab ScriptLab, is in early pre-production. He also co-produces a few films: “Cu Li Never Cries” by Pham Ngoc Lan, is currently in production; and in pre-production are “Viet and Nam” by Truong Minh Quy, “Regrettably at Dawn” by Sivaroj Kongsakul and “The Gospel of the Beast” by Sheron Dayoc.
Zurich Chan’s “Cangrejos” is in development and an animation project is in development.
“I would like to take the opportunity to understand and explore more opportunities for co-productions and collaborations in Asia,” says Lai. “APM, especially this year, felt like the perfect place and time to pursue that. We were lucky to be in the selection.