The Scent of Green Papaya

Director: Tran Anh Hung
Screenwriters: Tran Anh Hung

Institute History

  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival


In a subtly beautiful exploration of the roles—and love—of men and women in 1950s Saigon, Tran Anh Hung revisits his childhood moods and memories. Although war sirens and curfews punctuate the calm, The Scent of Green Papaya reveals another Vietnam, where domestic life is a delicate ballet.

Mui is a young peasant girl hired as a servant. Guided by the women of the house, she learns the ceremony of her position Her success, is measured In servitude, and grace is attained by submission. Ten years later, Mui is sent to work for Khuyen, whom she secretly loves, Mingling servitude with love, she becomes radiant, and wins Khuyen's devotion.

The Scent of Green Papaya shows us the fragile workings of seduction in a supposedly unenlightened, repressed society. Tran explains that "love empties servitude of its alienating content and transcends it service becomes a sacrifice and gift . . . ." The papaya symbolizes this balance. When green, it is thought a vegetable. When ripe, it is picked and prepared by women. Now called a fruit, it is brought to the table for men to eat. Each beat of this film captures beauty—in a flower, an insect, a girl's smile, or green papaya seeds.

Saturday Jan 29 1:20 pm
Holiday Village Cinema II

Wednesday Jan 26 8:00 pm
Sundance Screening Room


Distribution in Europe supported by EFDO under the EC’s media program.

— Catherine Schulman

Screening Details

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