Synopsis by Nathan Southern
A fictional narrative based on fact, Vietnamese helmer Bui Thac Chuyen's Living in Fear constitutes an unofficial (yet obvious) follow-up to the director's 2001 documentary Tay Dao Dat (aka The Digger). That earlier work explored a bizarre, depressing (and in the West, little-known) aftereffect of the Vietnam War: the presence of around one million tons of unexploded ammunition, including countless land mines still buried in the ground, which frequently injured and killed civilians well into the 21st century. But, whereas that earlier work waxed visceral and disturbing, Chuyen -- with Living in Fear -- reverses not only his form, but his overtones, reveling gleefully in black comedy. Set in the aftermath of Saigon's fall, circa 1975, this quirky, tense farce tells of Tai (Tran Huu Phuc), a bigamist who witnesses the victory of Ho Chi Minh's forces and wrongly anticipates the sudden, murderous arrival of the North Vietnamese Communists. Though this fails to materialize, and the green-shirted soldiers merely reparcel the South Vietnamese land sans punishing the denizens of the region, Tai's deep-seated fear lingers, and he takes a job as an unauthorized "sapper," defusing the mines and selling both those artifacts and pieces of the barbed wire on the black market. Meanwhile, as Tai undertakes this potentially lethal job, he struggles with a complex domestic situation that finds both of his wives pregnant and going into labor at the same time.