‘POV’ Lands Award-Winning Documentary ‘Children Of The Mist,’ About Shocking Cultural Practice That Sees Girls Kidnapped, Forced To Marry

EXCLUSIVE: POV has acquired the Oscar-shortlisted feature documentary Children of the Mist, a film that explores a disturbing tradition among Vietnam’s Hmong minority that involves kidnapping girls and forcing them into marriages.

The vérité film from first-time feature director Hà Lệ Diễm will premiere on the PBS series as part of POV’s 36th season, which launches in the summer. The central character in the film is Di, a 12-year-old Hmong girl living in rural Northern Vietnam who casually flirts with a boy, then finds herself the target of a kidnapping which could determine the rest of life.

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The Guardian called the documentary “shattering,” and awarded it four stars. In a review for the New York Times, critic Beatrice Loayza wrote, “‘Bride-napping’ is a Hmong custom that permits boys, often with the help of their families, to nab girls and detain them for three days. Throughout this time, the girl can decide whether she wants to go through with the marriage, though in practice, rejections can be violently challenged. That’s the norm in these parts: Di’s mother and older sister were bride-napped as well.”

Di only possesses a couple of weapons in her defense: access to education, which gives her a sense of possibility beyond those confining traditions, and the filmmaker herself, to whom Di appeals when her abductors try to drag her away.

“The care and sensitivity of the director shines through in this remarkable film,” POV executive producer Chris White said in a statement. “Through Diễm’s intimate lens you can’t help but embrace the vibrant Di, and fear for her future as the Hmong’s traditions put her independence at risk.”

Diễm observed, “Children of the Mist is a deeply personal film, and it is also my first feature-length. The fact that it has been selected to stand alongside the other films of the prestigious POV broadcast series is hardly imaginable to me. Therefore, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for all the love and recognition.”

The film held its world premiere in 2021 at IDFA, the renowned documentary film festival in Amsterdam, where Diễm won the award for Best Directing and the First Appearance Award – Special Mention. Children of the Mist won the Best International Film at DocAviv in 2022, and the Documentary Jury Prize at the 2022 Hong Kong International Film Festival. 

The Children of the Mist deal was negotiated by Chris White and Erika Dilday for American Documentary | POV, and Demetri Makoulis, vice president of sales for Film Movement.

Producers of the documentary are Swann Dubus and Trần Phương Thảo; Dubus also edited the film. Executive producers are White and Dilday for American Documentary | POV. Director Hà Lệ Diễm was born in 1991 in the mountains of Northeast Vietnam, a member of the Tay ethnic minority group. She studied journalism at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi, graduating in 2013. She is a Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program Grantee.

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