When the Villagers Left

A group of ethnic Red Dao hill tribe women leave their remote village in Northern Vietnam for the city of Hanoi in hopes of fostering business ties with Vietnamese tour companies.

The trip is one of discovery, but the challenges of culture shock are real as this group of women leave their remote village for the first time.

Creative team

Co-writer/director: Kyle Sandilands
Co-writer/producer: Chris Carnovale

Filmmaker’s statement

When the Villagers Left was a unique opportunity to come to Vietnam and build a relationship with the Red Dao community of Ta Phin.

I feel tremendously lucky to have had the opportunity to meet these women and the travel with them from their village to Hanoi. To see their wonder and discovery, and to visually show the juxtaposition between old and new was very interesting as a filmmaker. And, in the end, we became quite close to the women of Ta Phin, as they are incredibly warm-hearted people and keen to help their community.

I believe many critics will question whether or not increased tourism in these communities is a good thing for local culture. There’s conflict as to whether or not tourism is actually benefiting these communities, or if it’s simply bringing money and visitors that will permanently change the way the Red Dao live.

In my opinion, as volunteer Jase Wilson says in the film, “change is inevitable.” Why shouldn’t the Red Dao own televisions or cell phones or be able to send their children to schools outside of the village. They want to improve their quality of living and it’s not our right to judge otherwise.

At the end of the day, improving the quality of living while recognizing and retaining the traditional culture is key, and the CBT Vietnam project has made a lot of effort over the past 10 years to build capacity and relations between the ethnic minorities and Vietnamese tour operators so that tourism can be a long-standing, sustainable and positive experience for all parties.

About Kyle Sandilands

Kyle Sandilands

Kyle Sandilands is a Canadian filmmaker with a background in shooting, directing and editing and is always searching for projects that push the limits physically, creatively and experientially.

Kyle has shot and directed documentaries on four continents, putting him everywhere from the subzero temperatures of the Canadian Arctic to the stifling heat of Tanzania for a CBC Doczone film.

He’s directed several short documentaries about the impacts of tourism in the hill tribe villages of Northern Vietnam, travelled to Hyderabad, India to document corneal transplantation and eye-banking in the country’s leading eye-care facility and, most recently, filmed a project about Cambodia’s king and prime minister inaugurating the country’s new state-of-the-art neurosurgical centre.


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