A film by Nguyễn Phương-Đan & Philip Widmann. The old paternal house of the Le family, set in a rural scenery at the fringes of the small town of Ninh Hoa, close to the southern coast of Vietnam: A household dominated by women, neither rich nor poor, with chicken behind the kitchen and rice paddies bordering the plot.
Through the everyday life of the inhabitants of the house, the constellation of the extended family becomes visible. A constellation that is fundamentally marked by the course that history took in the second half of the 20th century, and that has made Germany a substantial reference point in the life of the Le family.
One part of the family has been living close to the former West German capital of Bonn for more than 40 years while the other part still resides in Ninh Hoa. The community of the Les includes both relatives that are present and absent, and extends into the realm of the spirit world.
Three brothers embody the trajectories that history has taken: One brother was assigned as a diplomat to the embassy of the Republic of Vietnam in Bonn in the early 1970s. He took his wife and children with him. At the end of the war in 1975, the nation that had employed him ceased to exist, and they stayed in West Germany. Another brother who was a soldier disappeared in the last days of the war. His remains have never been found. The third one was sent into a re-education camp after the end of the war. Today, he is the only male family member left in the house in Ninh Hoa.
Not far from the family house, by the National Highway that links the capital Hanoi with Saigon, the former capital of South Vietnam, stands the Palm Tree House that the children from Germany had built for their parents. Even though these parents never had been able to decide on a return to Vietnam.
In the summer of 2014, two visitors from Germany return to their family home in Ninh Hoa: The eldest daughter comes to decide upon the sale of the Palm Tree House, to spend time with her relatives and to look for some forgotten letters. In the meantime, her brother reaches Hanoi with the aim to align past, present and future of the family history. Looking for a spirit medium, he starts a search for his lost uncle. As long as the uncle’s remains have not been buried in the family grave, he keeps wandering as a hungry ghost yearning to come home.
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