The Black Hmong are an ethnic group whose village lies within the tourist trekking network of the Sapa region of Vietnam.
Known for their uncanny ability to learn conversational English and their great sense of humour, some Hmong villagers have found work as tour guides.
The vast majority, however, have not had the same access to education as the Vietnamese and are hindered by racial discrimination from the local majority.
The greatest challenge may perhaps be how to bridge the cultural gaps between the Vietnamese and Hmong – tasks necessary for the community’s long-term success in tourism.
Writer/director/producer: Kyle Sandilands
Co-writer: Chris Carnovale
Co-producers: Chris Carnovale, Chris Bottril
This film is the fourth created as part of the CBT Vietnam project documenting the effects of tourism on communities in the Sapa region of northern Vietnam.
I was immediately engaged in making a film about the Hmong after meeting some of the guides and being blown away by their fantastic grasp of English along with their witty, cheeky sense of humour. These guides are smart, savvy and looking for ways to improve their quality of living.
Despite their excellent communication and customer service skills with tourists, they face challenges from the Vietnamese majority – the Kinh people – as the Hmong have neither the same access to education nor the respect they deserve. They speak Hmong, not Vietnamese, and centuries of distrust between the two ethnic groups continues to lead to conflicts and distrust.
I think some parallels can be made with other indigenous groups around the world. Challenges of discrimination and inequality between indigenous groups and governing majorities is certainly not something unique to the Hmong. So, after years of filming and making friends with these tour guides, it was a film that I wanted to share and felt quite strongly about.
About Kyle Sandilands
Kyle Sandilands is a Canadian filmmaker with a background in shooting, directing and editing and is always searching for projects that push the limits physically, creatively and experientially.
Kyle has shot and directed documentaries on four continents, putting him everywhere from the subzero temperatures of the Canadian Arctic to the stifling heat of Tanzania for a CBC Doczone film.
He has directed several short documentaries about the impact of tourism in the hill tribe villages of Northern Vietnam, travelled to Hyderabad, India to document corneal transplantation and eye-banking in the country’s leading eye-care facility and, most recently, filmed a project about Cambodia’s king and prime minister inaugurating the country’s new state-of-the-art neurosurgical centre.