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The Buffalo Boy (2004)
"Mùa len trâu" (original title)

 -  Drama  -  23 March 2005 (France)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 335 users   Metascore: 72/100
Reviews: 9 user | 7 critic | 4 from Metacritic.com

Set along the southern coast of Vietnam during the French occupation in the 1940s, water is everywhere, giving life and bringing decay and rot. Kim is 15; his father and step-mother have ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
The Lu Le ...
Kim
Thi Kieu Trinh Nguyen ...
Ban
Huu Thanh Nguyen ...
Dinh, Kim's Father
Zan Sram Kra ...
Det
Van Be Truong ...
Hai Tich
Anh Hoa Nguyen ...
Ba Hai
Thi Tham Nguyen ...
Ba Tu
Hoang Nhan Vo ...
Lap
Quang Thinh Truong ...
Quang
Van Day Nguyen ...
Xuyen
Kim Long Thach ...
Thanh
Thi Thu Tam Cao ...
Lam
Huu Phuoc Nguyen ...
Thieu
Chau Nguyen ...
Cha Ban
Trung Truc Thach ...
Kim, Age 5
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Storyline

Set along the southern coast of Vietnam during the French occupation in the 1940s, water is everywhere, giving life and bringing decay and rot. Kim is 15; his father and step-mother have two buffalo, their lifeline as subsistence rice farmers. During the rainy season, there's no grass and the buffalo are starving. Kim volunteers to take the beasts inland to find food. On this coming-of-age journey, Kim sees men mistreat women, men fight with men, and French taxes rob the poor. He works for Lap, a buffalo herder whose past is entangled with Kim's parents, and he makes friends who will lead him to his place in the world. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

buffalo | fight | water | vietnam | farmer | See All (20) »

Genres:

Drama

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Details

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Release Date:

23 March 2005 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Gardien de buffles  »

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Company Credits

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1.85 : 1
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Vietnam's official submission to the 2006 Academy Awards. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Lyrical account of farm life in the Mekong Delta in the 1930s
23 November 2005 | by (Portland, Oregon, United States) – See all my reviews

Lyrical, beautifully filmed story of the difficult lives of poor rice farmers in the Mekong Delta flood plain in the years immediately preceding the Japanese occupation of WW II. Kim (The Lu Le) is a young man who must take on extra responsibilities when his father grows too ill to work.

The immediate problem is getting the family's two water buffalo to higher ground so they will have grass to eat, as the entire area surrounding their farm is experiencing one of the worst flood seasons in years and the animals are at risk for starving to death. Kim throws in with the notorious Lap and his "gang" – buffalo herders who move many animals each year for all the farmers in the area, for a hefty fee.

The film features buffalo drives, gang rivalries and warfare, drunken, cannabis laced parties, raped women, love, honor and duty to one's family. But the most vivid theme depicted here is the very hard life lived by people entirely at the mercy of the river.

Many important themes are expressed with subtlety, lightly touched upon. For example, we see evidence of the admixture of Catholicism and Buddhism, when one character or another makes simple reference to "God and Buddha" in everyday conversation. The heavy hand of the French colonizers is discerned just once, when a boatload of armed, uniformed officers comes around to check on tax matters. As Kim digs a grave for an old woman, we see in the background a procession of men pass by. Those in the front and rear wear caps with sun protective cloth at the back: the classic caps of Japanese soldiers. The others are French. It's the only reference to the occupation.

We gain insight into problems unique to this culture. We learn of the precious value of the water buffalo, without which spring tilling for rice cannot be accomplished. The problem of disposing properly of bodies of the dead during flood season is confronted at length. We get a sense of the pervasiveness and power of the delta floods through underwater scenes that show us vague forms of dead humans and swimming water buffalo, among other sights.

The music is sporadic and spare, hauntingly gorgeous. Flute playing and group singing by intoxicated gang members are delightful surprises. This film is part of the Global Lens 2005 series. It deserves far wider screening. (In Vietnamese) Grade: 8.5/10 (A-). (Seen on 04/14/05). If you'd like to read more of my reviews, send me a message for directions to my websites.


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