February 25, 2019  (Web Review)

Nimble Fingers

(2017) 52 min. In Vietnamese & Muong w/English subtitles. DVD: $250. Yo Creo Content (avail. from www.yocreocontent.com/distribution). PPR.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Italian director and cinematographer Parsifal Reparato combines animated assembly-line sequences with observational domestic footage to present a sympathetic portrait of female factory workers in Hanoi’s Thang Long Industrial Park. The animation also serves a practical purpose, since Reparato doesn’t appear to have received permission to film in the Canon and Nissei factories that employ subjects Bui Thi Bay, Vu Thi Kim Dung, and Nguyen Thi Thanh. In voiceover, the young women explain that they must work quickly and efficiently because managers will write them up if they make mistakes or get caught chatting with co-workers. Employers also discourage workers from taking more than two days off in a month, even to attend family weddings. At the end of the year, managers evaluate performances and decide whether to renew contracts. In their off-hours, the women play cards, frequent karaoke bars, rent paddle boats, and visit their families in the provinces. If Bay is worn down after three years of factory work, she also doesn’t want to return home to toil in the rice fields (and she’s concerned about making enough money to help support her brothers). Thanh, the artist of the group, dreams of being a schoolteacher, and Reparato animates her fanciful drawings of classroom life. In the finale, blurry video footage–surely shot surreptitiously–provides a real-life glimpse into the trio’s exhausting labors while an end credit notes that women represent 80% of Vietnam’s factory workforce. Extras include Reparato‚Äôs short film My Dreams Will Vanish Again. An eye-opening documentary, this is recommended. Aud: C, P. (K. Fennessy)