In 2015, Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck met Steve London at the Florida Film Festival. During this time, they were cutting Chau, beyond the lines and having seen a film Steve had scored, Once Upon a Crime: The Borelli-Davis Conspiracy, they wanted him to come on board in the final stages of Chau. With a very limited amount of time to score the film, and the Oscar® Qualification date approaching, Steve was able to create a beautiful, original score that elevated the movie to another level. Below he talks of his experience on the film.
Composing the score for "Chau, Beyond the Lines" was a wonderful journey for me personally and professionally. The film had a huge emotional impact on me and it also resonated deeply with me as an artist. How can one not be inspired watching Chau's determination to succeed in realizing his dream of becoming a painter despite his physical disabilities and the odds stacked against him?
Courtney Marsh, the director, took a very careful, measured approach to telling Chau's story because she was very aware that she could easily stray into territory that could make the film feel either maudlin or saccharine. Consequently, when it came time to score the film, we had long discussions about what the themes of the film were and how just the lightest musical brush strokes to underscore these emotional points was what was needed.
One of the key themes of the film that Courtney wanted to touch upon with the score was Chau's unconquerable spirit and she wanted to do it in a way that was "positive" but not overdoing it and pushing it into "happy" territory. I also felt that because the story is set against the backdrop of Vietnam and the terrible legacy of Agent Orange contamination, the score should reflect in the subtlest way possible some of the music and instrumentation of Vietnam. As well, the style of the score was also influenced partially by Chau and his art. Because of Chau's painting style, ie. he paints everything with his mouth, many of his painting have a diffuse look to them as he dabs little bits of paint at a time on to the canvas. I had the idea to mirror this diffuse style with the music and much of this can be heard in the organic soundscapes I created out of the traditional Vietnamese instruments.
After sketching out and mocking up several ideas for Courtney, we then worked together to mold the minimalist but warm sound of the score. I used recorded material from a 'đàn tranh', a traditional Vietnamese plucked zither, and a 'đàn tam thập lục', a traditional Vietnamese hammered dulcimer, and created the warm organic textures by processing those sounds into pads. The melody themes echo fragments of traditional Vietnamese folk songs. I played those melodies on Tibetan prayer bowls and on a piano with felted strings, processing those as well. Finally, I mixed the score stems for the dub with a stereo-image enhancing plug-in so that it stretched the soundscapes slightly more than normal left and right, giving a wider stereo image and making the score slightly more diffuse and organic sounding once again.
Click below listen to a compilation of Steve London's original score for Chau, beyond the lines.
Recently the VA just denied benefits to American Veterans, stationed on Navy Ships -- this excludes those stationed on harbors and inland rivers. Navy Vets claim the distilled water their ships sucked for showering, drinking, cooking, and laundry in were contaminated with Agent Orange. Experts have said the distillation process could have actually concentrated the Agent Orange, which contained the toxic chemical dioxin.
Last April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims struck down VA rules that denied compensation for sailors whose ships docked at certain harbors in South Vietnam, including Da Nang. Those ports, the court determined, could potentially have been in the Agent Orange spraying area. The court ordered the VA to review its policy. But on Friday, the VA largely stood by its old policy and once again asserted that there’s no scientific justification or legal requirement for covering veterans who served off the coast.
The Institute of Medicine report said there was no way to prove Blue Water vets were exposed to the chemicals, but it identified plausible routes that Agent Orange could have traveled out to sea and into a ship’s distillation system. Although military policy at the time recommended against distilling water closer than 10 miles to shore — where the chemical concentration would have been highest — veterans said doing so was often unavoidable, and their commanding officers routinely ordered it.
The VA said it is working with veterans groups to “initiate a groundbreaking study of Blue Water Navy Veterans health outcomes. We hope to have data gathered and analyses published in 2017.”
Listen to this brief but important segment in which an American Veteran talks about his exposure to dioxin and how it has effected his kids.
Chau, beyond the lines was shown at the MPAA on February 3rd as part of the MPAA's collaboration with ShortsHD. Members of Congress, the Senate, and the MPAA attended and packed the house. Short filmmakers, Courtney Marsh and Henry Hughes (director of the live action short film, Day One) were invited to be in attendance and give a Q&A afterwards.
Check out a short excerpt from a behind the scenes interview with Director, Courtney Marsh.
As part of ShortsHD, Chau, beyond the lines is now playing theatrically for a limited time, along other Oscar® Nominated short films (documentary, live action, animation). Screenings are presented in select theaters throughout the US, Canada, and the UK.
Please click HERE to catch a screening near you and to support short form cinema!
We are very excited to share that Chau, beyond the lines took home the award for Best Documentary Short Film at the Irvine International Film Festival! We graciously share this award with Chau and his story of struggle to achieve his dreams. If you haven't checked the film out, please watch it on Netflix and rate it. Your ratings help spread Chau's story as well as expand awareness about Agent Orange and the current cleanup happening in Vietnam.
We are very happy to announce that Chau, beyond the lines is now streaming on Netflix in the United States. We ask that you please take a moment to watch, rate, and even comment on our film. Ratings and comments help bring exposure not only to the film, but also to Chau’s work and the current issue of Agent Orange in Vietnam. By exposing the film to a broader audience, we hope to educate people that the lasting effects of war are still affecting children, and we hope to bring people together to end Agent Orange in Vietnam in the next decade. Please remember that by clicking on our Take Action tab, you can sign a letter to Congress and help encourage our government to continue to support to Vietnam as we try to clean it up and help those families effected.
We thank you for the support. Click HERE to watch!
Every since the announcement of the nomination on Thursday, Chau has been flooded with interviews and newscasts at his apartment. We are happy to report that Chau is doing wonderfully. He currently holds a job painting portraits (see below).
He is also still thriving as a freelance artist, being commissioned by buyers from America, Europe, Japan, and Vietnam. Chau currently has two pets that he cares for: a porcupine and a hamster. In his free time, he began taking a motorcycle taxi to go to the movies, meet friends, and go eat sushi - his newfound favorite dish. Days before he was to gather a group of friends to play soccer. He said he has started a soccer league and says he wish everyone had a bit more time for it, but everyone is busy with work.
His new art gallery, which is also his apartment, I may add, is called LMC Gallery (Le Minh Chau Gallery) and is located in District 10. He always welcomes guests and is happy to paint for them right then and there. "I paint whenever. I always paint at night because it is where my best ideas come from. I paint from night to dawn, and the day after, I am always pretty tired, waking up at noon. I'm tired, but happy as this was the dream I always wanted to be living. My dream to many was unrealistic, but now it is real," he shares.
By Courtney Marsh
I recently came across this article published by the Huffington Post: Please this ARTICLE first.
In this article, I read that 8-10 million children worldwide live in orphanages or some type of institution, much like the care center I volunteered at and filmed Chau, beyond the lines in. I found much of what this article said to be true: "Children growing up in congregate care settings [can] suffer greatly, especially those who enter facilities between infancy and three years old. Normal brain development cannot be achieved in babies without a one-on-one caregiver, with frequent touch and regular contact - rarely if ever available in an institution...Despite being fed, without the love of a family setting, many times children will stop growing and even die - a condition known as "failure to thrive.”
During the making of my film, I was asked to donate money to the center and then I was allowed to volunteer - a way, in my mind, to come to understand the center before the actual filming began. Keep in mind, I am not a registered nurse and actually have had no prior experience caring for anyone disabled before I volunteered. I also did not speak a word of Vietnamese. So in retrospect, it is very interesting I was allowed to handle or care for kids at all. Much of it was no big deal: feeding a kid or helping them put clothes on. But when it came to helping lift children onto metal carts to wheel them to the showers, that is where things got a little tougher. Only because I was confronted with a world I felt morally conflicted about (on top of the fact that this was a center for children disabled by a controversial chemical). What I first observed was a level of coldness (or lack of love) between the children and caretakers. However, I had to keep in mind that I was in a completely different culture from mine, where it was very odd when I offered people hugs on a regular basis. Maybe this was custom, and partly it was.
Looking back and thinking of the way the children were handled, sometimes tied up so they wouldn't run around (the hospital was understaffed) seems terrible. But then I recall having to do so myself just so I could bath the rest of the kids I was designated to. There was one kid in particular (we called him Cá) and he would run around naked all the time. I was presented with the situation to tie him up or not. It was the only time I felt so sure about something. And I did. I had watched the nurses tie these kids up repeatedly and I was appalled by the sight, but then you have to realize that in order to bath 25 disabled children (under the age of 10), there have to be some who are fastened to a table or bed for the workers to do their job properly. Are they better ways? Yes, of course. But even I, who find myself an over-compassionate person, in the course of a workday, rushing to ensure that all 7 of my kids get clean and sanitary (many have diapers that haven't been changed regularly), you resort to options you may have never previously considered. Sometimes I believe morals are a luxury.
As a volunteer, and after my stay of 2.5 months, I might as well become a full time employee. I started to understand why the caretakers couldn't give love. They had a job to do. They had families of their own. It reminded me of a teacher/student relationship, except these children never went home or had summer break. It was 24/7. I dont blame the caretakers—although I believe some to be much harsher and unnecessarily rougher than others—but I think it is the system that is broken.
I ask myself, are they better off in an institution than the streets? Are they better off at home with a family that considers them a burden than in an institution? I see the pros and cons to both sides. It pains me that until we have enough qualified workers (and the proper funds to pay for them) can we happily employee caretakers that care for a child one on one. Seems like a far off dream, but one that is definitely worth striving for. They are the future, these kids. But this is even a system that is almost uncontrollable. Humans are prone to emotion and individual personalities, and they will act as they want on those who are helpless. It seems big brother needs to be instated, but then it gets into an entire conversation about liberty and control. The cycle seems endless, but one thing I have come to know is that parents caring for their children is the best. It is the one true option.
In the case of Chau, his parents bribed the hospital to take him in (a relative donated a large sum of money). He was able to grow up in an environment that allowed him to draw (even though it told him that his dream was worthless). When he went home, his parents weren't really even his parents it seemed to me, him having been away from home for his first 18 years of life. However, the fact that he knew he had a family seemed to me, to the most important thing. He knew where he came from. He had someone when all else failed. Many of the kids, who were orphans, who grew up in that institution, have nowhere to go when it’s done. One of my favorite kids in the camp—"favorite" meaning, I was very close to him and his personality was magnetic—was forced to leave the camp when he was 18 and couldn't become efficient enough to be placed into society. He now resides in a camp where most of these kids go to live out the rest of their days. No cameras allowed, I might add. And I completely understand why. It was a poorly cared for "prison camp" in my opinion. When I saw the kid I was so close to, it seemed the life was sucked out of him along with the personality I grew so much to love.
I asked Chau, if he thought that his own "luxury" of having family attributed to his success and he very confidently replied yes. (And keep in mind, Chau never really speaks to his parents and never acquires any type of income or help from them. He has had a bad relationship with them for a few years now). But what I realized was that, no matter who your family is - if you love them, hate them, or if they love you or hate you- you have someone, something to define yourself by. To have anyone in your life who gives you any emotion or energy at all makes you feel alive. Apathy, in the case of these children growing up, tends to breed a sense of “What’s the point?” And they give up. Imagine growing up in a world where you have never had anyone love or care about you. I think often about it and I believe that is the hole in the system. Parents abandoning their kids. Then the caretakers, who replace them, not being able to give them the love they need.
It is a very important time in Vietnam as the next political succession has entered into its final stages. This is not just a huge event for Vietnam, but for the U.S. as well. Vietnam has an expanding economy and has much influence on the United States' involvement with trade in SE Asia (specifically: access to the Indochina sea). And on January 21st, Vietnam's involvement with America will be decided on a larger scale as the next Party General Secretary is chosen.
Traditionally, in order to choose this next party general secretary, prime minister, state president, and national assembly president, a leadership roster is formed and then voted upon. However, tension has started surrounding who chooses the names that make it onto the leadership roster. One thing to note: Vietnam does not have a supreme leader or commander in chief, so the rule on who decides what becomes a bit blurred.
Two key individuals are battling for the highest position of party general secretary: current General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and the current Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung. And of course, they have very different political views. Prime Minister Dung is someone known for being a reform champion, trying to end Vietnam's deference to China, and expanding freedoms such as internet usage. He is the much more liberal candidate. "Should Mr Dung's reformist faction seize all top four positions up for grabs, a bolder and more unified leadership in Vietnam would take shape. This would be particularly so if the comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-deal deal involving the US, is finalised in the coming years. Relations with the US, both security and economic, would be developed further, and with them perhaps a more credible commitment on the part of Vietnam to improve its poor human rights record. However, in this scenario, there would probably be a greater risk of regional tensions rising as closer ties with the US and its regional allies bring Vietnam more into conflict with China." (Economist) It must also be mentioned that attached to Dung's name are rumors of corruption and carelessness, someone who preaches democracy and expanding social liberties, only to resort to "draconian" methods to take down opponents.
Not in favor of Dung as a successor, current General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong is attempting to nominate himself to serve an additional one or two years, despite age limits, adding 3 of his political party members, which would then in turn knock Prime Minister Dung off the list since there are only 4 slots.
If Trong or one of the conservative faction assumes political power, the opposite would probably take place, with Vietnam solidifying its ties to China, remaining ideologically in sync with the communist giant and keeping the U.S. at an arm's length. "Economic liberalisation, particularly in the banking sector, would continue but at a relatively slower pace. This lower-risk approach favours regional stability, but long-term political and economic development would arguably be slower." (Economist).
We are very honored by this recognition from The Academy and hope that this will bring exposure to our film and the lasting effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Last month, studies were to be done in Okinawa to test for high dioxin levels in former employees, who worked at Camp Kinser, a 2.7-square-kilometer U.S. Marine Corps supply base located in the city just north of Naha, Japan. According to the reports, unused military supplies were returned during the Vietnam War to Okinawa, which was the United States' main outpost at the time. Japan is claiming that "leaked substances including dioxin (aka TCDD), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and insecticides within the base [killed] marine life [there]." While, a representative of the U.S. told locals that there is no likelihood of dangerous contamination, questions were raised when marine life was recently tested, showing extreme and unsafe levels of dioxin contamination.
While the US government denies Agent Orange ever being present in Okinawa, former US Veterans say a vast array of defoliants were shipped there under the claim that Okinawa was America’s most important staging post for the Vietnam War. Former service members claim herbicides were sprayed to keep runways and perimeter fences clear. Veterans also claim that surplus and damaged barrels of defoliants were buried within Okinawa’s bases.
No matter how it is explained, there is always a detail missing. This 2 minute video made by the "Make Agent Orange History" project gives you all you need to know- past, present, future -to lay the foundation for one's understanding of the chemical. Take a look and help us make Agent Orange history.
Post by Courtney Marsh
Setting out to make Chau, beyond the lines, one very difficult decision I had to make was what story to focus on. There are so many issues at hand, from the politics of Agent Orange and why it was sprayed, to the hardship of those disabled by the chemical, to the choice parents are presented with when their baby is born with a birth defect: giving up their children to be orphans in a care center or raise the children themselves.
My film focuses very narrowly on one kid, my friend and colleague, Le Minh Chau, and his struggle to become an artist despite seemingly insurmountable odds. In focusing on his reality, one could argue, I leave out other realities that may very well indeed be much more necessary to talk about. While I do not think the topics rank, I want to use this post to speak about and bring awareness to another side of the coin.
Below is a film I feel is very important in understanding 1. A different perspective of those affected by Agent Orange, 2. A first hand account of the spraying of Agent Orange, and 3. The rural situation versus the city situation (having a sponsor versus not having a sponsor) for a child with a disability caused by Agent Orange.
By understanding what is happening in other parts of the world, even though it is not something we are looking faced with every day, we can come closer to being a united world and hopefully, together prevent the tragedies of our past.
As some may know after seeing the film or having watched Courtney's interviews, we sell Chau's work here on our site until he can do so by himself at an international level. One goal that we feel very confident he will achieve. On this News Feed, we will continue to update what Chau currently has for sale. If you are interested in a piece, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chau's work is usually sold quite quickly since he does a good job of maintaining his own customers. However, we are trying to extend his art to America. The more purchases to Chau and his work, the more he can save to open up his own studio one day. All paintings are oil on cloth canvas (unless specified otherwise) and are painting entirely by mouth.
Title: Works the Way of Love
Dimensions: 60cm x 80cm
Description: 2 individual paintings, combined to make one
Price: $200 USD (plus shipping and handling)
On another note, we are excited to share news that one of our only remaining festivals is upon us! We have been invited to screen Chau, beyond the lines at the Irvine International Film Festival. Our screening will be taking place Sunday, Jan. 17th @ 7:30pm at the Laguna Hills Mall Cinema. Director, Courtney Marsh, and Producer, Jerry Franck, will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening. To buy tickets please visit http://irvinefilmfest.wix.com/. Hope to see you there!
On Monday, Courtney Marsh sat down alongside fellow filmmaker Vanessa Block (director, The Testimony) for a discussion led by Ondi Timoner, an Award-Winning filmmaker known for DIG!, We Live in Public, and Brand: A Second Coming. She is also the host and Producer of BYOD: Bring Your Own Doc, a show that each week explores a different documentary filmmaker or aspect of filmmaking, with special guests and a live Q&A– diving deep into creative process and the business realities of producing and distributing films. Ondi shares her insider views, opinions, and personal stories, welcoming audience participation.
Ondi Timoner invited two selected documentary shorts currently on the Oscar short list - The Testimony & Chau, beyond the lines - to participate. Chau, beyond the lines follows a Chau, a teenager living in a Vietnamese care center for children effected by Agent Orange as battles with the reality of his dream to one day become a professional artist. The Testimony chronicles the largest rape trial in Congo's history, offering an unprecedented glimpse into the lives of its women and the unshakable strength of the human spirit.
We are very honored to be a part of this show.
Click below to watch the full interview.
A few statistics:
- 57.8 Million Americans have one or more disabilities
- 5.5 Million Ameican veterans are persons with disabilities
- 1 Billion people with disabilities around the world
- 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries
- 1 in 4 of today's 20 year olds will become disabled before they retire
- 80% of people with disabilities live in isolated, rural areas
When I volunteered at the Lang Hoa Binh Care Center in Ho Chi Minh 8 years ago, I took on the same tasks as the nurses who cared for the children there. I mean, I couldn't speak fluent Vietnamese, but I knew where every kid needed to be at what time -- from feeding, to showering, to napping, to getting their medicine. However, a few things stuck out to me that I pushed away in the back of my mind, but now that I approach my 30th birthday, I realize a great deal of injustice occurred to those kids, mainly those with severe mental and physical capabilities.
However, this is not something linked only to Vietnam. This is a worldwide issue. And it needs worldwide ratification. The United States usually identifies itself as the leader of the global community, setting an example for other countries to follow. So why hasn't the United States gotten on board with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities? When almost all other developed countries in the world has ratified this treaty, where is the United States in all this?
What is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
Guiding principles of the Convention:
1. Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons
3. Full and effective participation and inclusion in society
4. Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity
5. Equality of opportunity
7. Equality between men and women
8. Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities
For more in depth definitions of the following points, please click here.
Without getting too long-winded, we must admit that the idea that those persons with disabilities are not given the same treatment and rights (whether to attempt to live an independent life or to be able to access a sidewalk as easily as an able-bodied person) only empower society's silent discrimination of those who may seem "different" to us. We will post more information about this topic and the progress of the United States ratifying the the CRPD, but until then, ask yourself, what the are true downfalls to ratifying this? Taxes and spending?
Disability Rights is currently a state to state decision. But with certain states deciding to withhold monetary aid to those with a disability, people who have been living independently for years are forced into institutions, under the management of paid employees. This is not fair nor just to our fellow man. However, the persistent theme of looking at persons with disabilities as lesser than able-bodied persons allows us to justify their being put into a home. However, that person has a right to a choice and a right to freedom. We cannot allow this to continue in America. We need to set an example for other countries waiting to ratify, or those in Africa, not even considering to sign at this point. For more information on how you can help get the CRPD ratified, visit the USICD website.
Below is a global image of countries participating in the CRPD.
Dark Green = Ratified
Light Green = Signed, but not Ratified
Grey = No involvement
Director, Courtney Marsh, was very honored to sit down with television personality Victoria Nguyen of the Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, for the show "Victoria To Uyen" -- a magazine-style talk show that is aired daily in primetime and is the longest running show on the network (over 13 years).
In this interview, Courtney explains what Agent Orange is and the lasting effects of the chemical, which are still taking place in Vietnam as we speak. SBTN is a network based in Orange County, CA, which boasts a large Vietnamese community, most people, directly impacted by the war. In the mid 1970's, many Southern Vietnamese, living in Saigon, were forced to immigrate into the United States, fearful of the consequences for not supporting the Communist North.
Note: The name, Ho Chi Minh City, only officially became the name for Saigon in July, 1976 -- after the war -- to honor the first prime minister of Vietnam, and also, Ho Chi Minh, a famous figure in the Vietnam war. Because it has just been used for over 30 years, Ho Chi Minh City is a name more popular to young people.
Click HERE to watch Part One of the televised interview.
(The interview portion of this telecast is in English with Vietnamese subtitles).
Vietnam is the United States' # 1 trading partner in Southeast Asia and is a rapidly growing economy as well as America's tie into the South China Sea. However, with the upcoming 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam, there will be a "re-shuffling" of key positions in government, and Vietnam will most likely make strides to become distinctively closer to China or the U.S. With the China's history, and now with the Beijing Sandcastle's raising eyebrows amongst political leaders in Vietnam (and the U.S.), why is a partnership with the United States not the obvious choice?
Below is one of the most enlightening and clear reports we have read on the current state of Vietnam and the U.S., including what is at stake for both countries' futures, and why wounds must be healed. Contrary to popular belief, Agent Orange is no longer an issue of the past. It is creeping right into trending geo-political topics that will determine our future in international trade. Take a read below and see why our government should continue to make the final amends with Vietnam, why we should encourage them, and why we owe it not only to the Vietnamese, but to ourselves, to put this last ghost of war to rest.
Three weeks ago, Courtney sat down for an in depth hour interview with Fei Wu, creator and owner of Feisworld, a popular motivational podcast based in Boston, MA. During this interview, Courtney talks about the 8 year journey to make her film, Chau, beyond the lines, along with her hopes, regrets, and what inspired her to pursue a life of filmmaking.
Please click HERE to listen in!