All eyes, all ears

How to Improve the World

During the first edition of Electric Shadows in September 2021, we presented a retrospective selection of short and mid-length films by essayistic filmmaker Nguyen Trinh Thi. Works like Vietnam the Movie (2016) and Fifth Cinema (2018) examine how images, ideas and words connect and clash, shaping the troubled past of her home country Vietnam, with aftereffects in the present day.

Using a multitude of materials – historical footage, postcards, Hollywood movies and much more – her films embody the complexity and continuous restructuring of history. Until August 31, Fifth Cinema is part of the online program at e-flux.

Previous films already questioned the dominant presence of imagery in our view of the word, Vietnam in particular. With her latest, How to Improve the World (2021), part of our second edition, Nguyen reflects on the differences in how memory is processed between the culture of the eye and that of the ear, while observing the loss of land, forests, and the way of life of the indigenous people in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

On her website, Nguyen says: “As our globalised and westernised cultures have come to be dominated by visual media, I feel the need and responsibility as a filmmaker to resist this narrative power of the visual imagery, and look for a more balanced and sensitive approach in perceiving the world by paying more attention to aural landscapes, in line with my interests in the unknown, the invisible, the inaccessible, and in potentialities.”