“PORTRAITS OF STRENGTH” aims at documenting the life of some very poor ethnic minorities that live in the mountains and valleys of North Vietnam, near the border with China. I was particularly interested in portraying the conditions and lifestyle of the ethnic women community.
While in Hanoi for another project, I had the opportunity to go with a local NGO to visit an ethnic community a few hours from the city… what I saw was small groups of people living in very poor and extremely hard conditions, in forgotten villages, left to themselves without even the basic amenities. When I asked about what had been done for them I was told that the government and the official institutions, in Vietnam’s recent “rush to capitalism/consumerism”, have no time to worry about these few individuals, so, most of the times, they turn a blind eye and simply carry on with their business, with development and innovation.
I believe our perception of these minorities is not correct. It is based, mainly, on the images/stories we get from the Sapa tourist area… the real situation is quite different. The conditions of the ethnic groups living away from the tourist path are much tougher and much more difficult. I was told that these minorities receive help from the government. From what I have seen it is not always so… Most of the help goes to the Sapa area for further development (it is already a very rich area compared to the rest of the country) while the other groups are, frequently, left by themselves to cope with very harsh conditions…