Thick clouds were hiding the last dim rays of sun, signaling the end of the bright summer day. Loud motorbike hoots and tired impatient faces were all around, a normal scene of the rush hour in Hanoi.
We struggled amid the flow of traffic congestion packed with people on all kinds of vehicles to get to Phuc Tan, where we were going to interview Mr. Tan and shoot him gardening on his assigned portion of the riverbank.
This guy was actually an add-on to the original script as we ‘discovered’ him by accident just the day before. ‘You guys are shooting a movie? Interested in my life story? I used to be an addict, then came the garden,” Mr. Tan started the conversation as we passed by his house gate with the huge camera on shoulder.
Greattttt! A fresh angle to add to the story! We had been feeling there was something missing in the story line. A lot of interviews and shooting with those who started the movement by either mobilizing resources to reclaim the river bank or pioneeringly donating to pave the cement road had been finished.
But then, how about those who followed the movement? Was the movement strong enough to engage more people as it swept through the community? Was it sustainable? Would it be sustainable? This guy was definitely the missing part, and that was not to mention his dramatic life story.
Anyway, we were going to try talking to him that day. The road bended, suddenly becoming narrow and winding. Strangely, this poor neighborhood of people from the bottom walks of life was blanketed in a peaceful ambience. The aroma of freshly cooked dinner lingered in the air. Kids’ laughter echoed from afar. The fatigue of the traffic was all left behind.
Mr. Tan was watering his vegetable garden on the bank. Five or six other were working on their gardens around him. The grassy smell of the plants, the overwhelming green, the cool water dust, the bright smiles, people calling out each other… all of them painted a breath-taking picture of the riverside community garden. We, of course, could not help capturing all with our lens.
An hour later, Mr. Tan and we finally sat down for a talk. This guy was not at all shy to share, which we had been afraid. He told the story concisely and clearly about how working on this garden saved him from the 21st time being sent back to the rehab, how he fainted on the field while clearing out the weeds, how the locals favored his chemical-free vegetables, etc..
Kids around us all the interview and filming 🙂
He could not act any more naturally in an interview, but all we could do was just recording and taking pictures of him. Our cameraman left the day before with his professional camera while we did not manage to rent another one yet. But it was a good start after all.
We left his house in sheer excitement about our newfound character. We would come back soon with better equipment to record his story. The narrow winding road ended under the rolling wheels of our bike, revealing the glowing city which was then not stuck with traffic any longer. The roads ahead became somehow clearer. So did our own road.