Phu Quoc and Anchovies

When we were approached to do a film for Nam Ngu in Phu Quoc, our team were initially hesitant whether our ‘documentary’ approach would fit with the conventional style of commercial production.  Nonetheless we decided to take on the challenge!

Phu Quoc is an island off the Southern coast of Vietnam, and is important for fish sauce because the anchovies in that area have proteins that are important ingredients for a premium quality of fish sauce.

Being filmmakers first and foremost, we decided that authenticity is something we would like to achieve.   As the anchovies are a crucial element of the story, we wanted to capture live anchovies as it was being caught from the sea.  That became the crux of the problem.

Firstly anchovies freeze up seconds after they hit deck so we need to be on the boat when it happens.  Secondly, they are caught at least 40 kilometres off the coast, which basically means our crew need to out at sea for hours.  Thirdly, fishing is done only at night, which posed a lighting problem.

It was a difficult and dangerous task.

There have been many discussions on authentic filmmaking versus commercial film productions, which has been a thorny issue ever since we started RICE & Partners.  Where is the line between the integrity of producing an authentic shot versus just fulfilling marketing needs?  Even though we were producing a commercial, we decided to ‘shoot it real’ as much as we could.  The visuals has to tell the story of Phu Quoc on its own.

As the key message of this film is the anchovies, we decided not to compromise on this and that we need to get an authentic shot, even when we were advised to use stock videos.

By making that decision, it caused us lots of nerves being under that pressure to deliver, but we shall let the visuals speak for us.  As filmmakers, there is no better feeling than capturing that moment.

Credits to Dong Quan and Son Ha, who braved the seas on a stormy night and experienced a dawn that they will remember for the rest of their lives.