The British Council have announced that Dust & Metal (Bụi và Kim loại), the second feature from director Esther Johnson (Asunder 2016), will 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 will partner 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 will utilise 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. A new electronic score by Vietnamese artist Xo Xinh and sound artist Nhung Nguyen will be devised with the unique aim of being performed live as a “cine-concert” for the project’s initial festival run.

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


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’. I am fascinated by archive film and this project is designed to offer a new perspective of Vietnamese cultural heritage and place through the synergy of collaging heritage and new film, with contemporary music and traditional instrumentation. During the development of the concept for Dust & Metal I was fortunate to view material held in the Vietnam Film Institute archives and am excited to be working with both VFI and TPD on the project and am grateful to British Council for supporting this new initiative.

Dust & Metal is the first feature project to be produced by Live Cinema UK, with founder Lisa Brook as producer. Lisa’s previous short and mid-length credits include The Unfilmables live score project with BAFTA and Oscar-nominated composer Mica Levi and her sister Francesca directing, and a recent lockdown commission with Haiku Salut recording new scores to shorts from the BFI Archive, Dust & Metal is a major step forward for Live Cinema UK and the artform of live cinema.

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. I didn’t think our first feature would end up being co-produced from the other side of the world during a pandemic of course, but the British Council have shown their trust in us being able to achieve this with Dust & Metal. 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, and now are integral in realising the final project during the most testing of times”.

Dust & Metal is now in production with a completion date of Q4 2021, with a festival run in late 2021 and early 2022; premiere to be announced. The project is seeking festival engagements, sales representation and distribution in the UK, Europe, Asia and North America.

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