Generations born after the Vietnam War may have never heard of the herbicide Agent Orange, let alone realize how its dangerous chemicals still threaten millions of people’s health to this day. In the span of half an hour, “Chau beyond the lines” raises awareness about the lingering effects of Agent Orange while proving that passion and determination are greater than any suggestion that dreams should ever be limited by disability.
The film opens inside Lang Hoa Binh Agent Orange Care Center in Ho Chi Minh City. It is here audiences meet Chau, a 16-year-old artist with severe limb impairments caused by dioxin, the chemical found in Agent Orange, which his mother unknowingly consumed while drinking water from a tainted river.
The scenes inside the care center are eye-opening and will be the most powerful images to resonate with viewers as they see the impact that the chemical has had on Chau’s body and on the facility’s other young residents, many of whom are orphans.
Directed by Courtney Marsh and produced by Jerry Franck, the film takes place over multiple years and documents Chau’s journey to becoming a professional artist. Trying to tell a story that spans several years in just 30 minutes is a tricky business. Because of the film’s short length, it doesn’t get bogged down in fine details nor do the filmmakers seem to pry for them when interviewing Chau or other individuals such as the nurses at the care center. Instead, the film succeeds at staying focused on Chau’s plight to achieve his dreams, and does so in a manner that while succinct is both respectful and emotionally impacting.
There are many able-bodied people who never act on their ambitions due to fear of rejection or their own perceived limitations. Chau, on the other hand, is an individual of action. His willpower and courage will inspire you. The fact that it’s 2016 and Agent Orange still hasn’t been completely eradicated from contaminated areas will anger and baffle you.
“Chau, beyond the lines” captures the development of a great artist in his youth. It also highlights the importance of funding for on-going Agent Orange cleanup and support for its millions of victims in Vietnam and for veterans in the United States.
“Chau, beyond the lines” is available for streaming right now on Netflix. It will also air on the Al Jeezera English program “Witness” beginning Feb. 28th.