Tuesday, June 11, 2024

New Wave (2024) Tribeca 2024


Director Elizabeth Ai tells the story of her family and Vietnamese New Wave music. Its the story of how her interest in looking back at the music that fueled her happy memories reawakens her feelings of abandonment that came from her mother essentially leaving her and her sister in the care of of her aunts and uncles.

There is a great deal to unpack here and I want to see the film again to fully take it in. On the one hand there is the story of the music. Influenced by the poppy American and Euro songs of the 80's, the music that Ai loved was very often remade hits sung by Vietnamese American singers who became popular around the world. It is completely understandable how the music took over the lives of many who heard it.

At the same time the film is the story of Ai and those around her, the children of refugees. Their parents came from Vietnam and they hustled for a better life, which caused pain and suffering for the kids who didn't understand. Ai's aunt was more like her mom despite being not much older than herself. It understand how the music and its bouncy beats was a place to escape to.

This film raises a lot of questions and drifts into unexpected places. I love how Ai manages to make it all work. There is a mastery here in that she keeps us tumbling forward with each new twit and turn. We watch because we can't help but wonder where this is going. It may not be high art, but coming in a festival where many of the films had me disinterested and knowing how it was going to play out, the fact that NEW WAVE was making me lean in desperate to know where Ai's story was going speaks volumes.

A hidden gem of Tribeca, NEW WAVE is worth a look.

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