DER Documentary

Hanoi Eclipse: The Music of Dai Lam Linh

launch preview watch a preview

by Barley Norton
color, 56 min, 2010

Non-profit, K-12, and Individual pricing also available
See pricing information and conditions

The documentary follows the challenges faced by the groundbreaking and controversial Vietnamese band Dai Lam Linh, while rehearsing and performing in their hometown of Hanoi. It shows how the band came together to create a unique form of popular music, which is both international in outlook and rooted in Vietnamese traditions and aesthetics. Followed by scandal at every turn for their experimental sound and their use of sexually explicit lyrics, the band have dared to flout taboos and fight for their creative freedom. Shunned by state-run organizations and disliked by the Vietnamese censors, the band were only able to record their debut album because of support from the Centre Culturel Français de Hanoi. Dai Lam Linh's story of creative, political and financial struggle reveals what it is like to be a contemporary musician in a one-party state where cultural expression is tightly controlled.

Dai Lam Linh was established by the male composer, Dai, an ex-soldier who fought in the Second Indochina War (known as the "Vietnam War"), and two female singers, Lam and Linh. The film explores how Dai overcame the trauma of war by writing songs to honor the memory of the war dead and how the singers Lam and Linh embarked on an inner journey to discovery their extraordinary voices. With vivid footage of the band working in the city of Hanoi, the film documents the process of recording Dai Lam Linh's debut album in 2009 and features an album-launch concert in the prestigious Hanoi Opera House.

“Barley Norton ... is to be highly commended for his wonderful work with the storyline, filming, interviewing and recording, and everything else it took to make this highly successful production. It is a very impressive musical journey, at times scary, noisy, funny, touching, thought-provoking, and always challenging, yet emotionally rewarding ... This is truly a remarkable documentary film, and I highly recommend it ... It is a film that all university music programmes should own, and that all music students should be required to see” — Dale Olsen, Yearbook for Traditional Music
“Beautifully filmed, this is an important document not just about Dai Lam Linh's struggle to make the music they want to make, but also about the act of making art in Vietnam today. Since there are so few documentaries on contemporary culture in Vietnam, Norton is to be congratulated for opening a window into an intriguing musical culture” Songlines, The World Music Magazine
Hanoi Eclipse… provides a well-researched and engaging look at music-making in contemporary Vietnam.” — Jennifer Milioto Matsue, Asian Music
“The film will be of great value to those interested in international contemporary music and those interested in contemporary Vietnamese culture. It is also an invaluable contribution to the as yet small number of documentaries about contemporary Vietnamese society that are firmly grounded in in-depth research.” — Lauren Meeker, Ethnomusicology

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Commendation - Intangible Culture Film Prize, RAI International Film Festival of Ethnographic Film, 2011
Open City Docs Fest, UK, 2012
Lifescapes South East Asian Film Festival. Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2012
Jean Rouch International Film Festival. Paris, France, 2011
Society for Visual Anthropology Film and Media Festival. Montreal, Canada, 2011
12th RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film, London, 2011
Vietnamese International Film Festival, 2011
San Francisco Diasporic Vietnamese Film Festival, San Francisco, 2011
British Forum for Ethnomusicology Conference, Falmouth, UK, 2011
Society for Ethnomusicology Conference, Los Angeles, 2010
EUROSEAS Conference (The European Association for Southeast Asian Studies), Gothenburg, Sweden, 2010

Related Resources
Study Guide
Review on diaCRITICS

View more photos on

Related Films
Live from UB
Birds of Passage
Treasure of the Lisu

Catalog of New Films DER new films catalog cover
Join Our Mailing List
Suport DER
Supported By Massachusetts Cultural Council National Endowment for the Humanities National Endowment for the Arts