Making Art in the Time of COVID: Why I Made the Film NONFUTURE

It’s been hard. My mind, heart, and body have been on overdrive. I made the film “NONFUTURE, Meditations on Time” to make sense of it all. If this strikes a chord with you, please share.

I hope that this film

  1. brings moments of lightness in a very dark and difficult situation
  2. inspires creative experimentation to make meaning of our changing realities
  3. reminds us that we are all connected in our collective struggle
  4. sparks playful movement, gratitude, and laughter
  5. moves us to be resilient, brave, and kind to each other
From my film “NONFUTURE

Making Sense of Time: Before, During, and After-COVID

My Film “Liberation Time” on the historical demarcation of 1975 for Vietnamese

I am a historian and my profession is to analyze continuity and change, rupture and resiliency. We are now in a historical inflection point, a demarcation of a before, during, and a difficult-to-imagine-after-COVID. Yet this history is still in the making, with endless uncertainties and implications. It feels impossible to put into words what all of this means. At times, by writing about this current moment through a historical or artistic lens, I feel cruel…to twist current suffering and fear into an intellectual lesson or artistic statement. To separate myself from the sense of shared humanity and collective suffering. To wield the historical power to float and flitter across time and space, finding patterns, exceptions, and ultimate takeaways. It’s too difficult, I confess. To find meaning in the chaos, to see beyond the horizon to a new day all the while recognizing that the day is not over yet and the worst is yet to come.

Yet, in spite of the difficulty, I also recognize that I am in a privileged position to think, reflect, and most importantly to inspire hope. It must be done, I breathe. In some semblance of ‘history,’ I storytell, narrate, and find calm in all the things which border between meaningful/less. We are in a historical moment and we have the power to act in ways which define us and humanity for all of time.

I have the capacity to write, teach, and make art that resounds, connects, and moves. That in itself is such a beautiful gift. I believe that we have the responsibility to share our talents, however big or small, to nurture the collective future of humanity.

Feeling before Thinking, the Body as a Vehicle

“I didn’t know you were a dancer!? Where did those dance moves come from?”

A few responses to my film “NONFUTURE

I did not know I was a dancer either. In some ways, all I did was free my body to move, express, and breathe. I surrendered to feeling before thinking. In order to create the dance pieces in my film NONFUTURE, I meditated on a feeling and let that feeling stir me to move. As director, I had a sense of the aesthetic qualities and visual sentiment of the movements. Yet, during the filming I felt truly meditative and present. All the emotions that felt inexplicable—the fear, the guilt, the confusion—I channeled into movement/non-movement. During the dance pieces, a certain lightness took over my body. Maybe it was the weight of dark thoughts floating away, or maybe it was the endorphins from dancing among the trees during a warm spring day. My body felt like a vehicle for the jumble of thoughts, emotions, sleepless nights, petty arguments, and confusing uncertainty.

From my film NONFUTURE

NONFUTURE embodies the yin and yang, a dialectic dance between darkness and light, confusion and hope. My surrender to movement was liberating. As I edited the film, I wanted to encapsulate this joyful lightness of being. Thus, I shaped the narrative arc of NONFUTURE towards a celebration embedded within a landscape of despair. My mother-in-law who is currently in quarantine in South Korea said she was inspired by my film to dance around the house, swaying her hips and moving her hands. I feel a heartwarming sense of accomplishment because I was able to move just one person, literally, to encourage them to move and laugh. I find this motivation to ‘move’, whether physically or spiritually, so crucial at this moment of restricted movement and widespread depression.

From my film “NONFUTURE

For the past few years, I have been re-examining my relationship to my body—that forgotten instrument, a vehicle of my consciousness, an extension of self, my best friend and foe. This self-exploration is part feminist awakening, part confrontation with Confucian-Catholic gender norms, part surrender to a radical vulnerability. I explore this process by making unclassifiable art in the spirit of playful experimentation. I call this project “MISS/MIS” which I publish on my arts website “MIS-READING.COM.” NONFUTURE is the latest iteration of this feminist journey of recognizing, making sense of, and celebrating my body.

My film “MISSTEP

By being a full-stack filmmaker where I direct, edit, produce, and act—I have been able to separate my ego from the film itself. I can quiet, at least for a moment, the voices of uncertainty, embarrassment, judgment, and fear about how my body ‘looks’ or what people might ’think’ of me. As director with a certain aesthetic vision, I can communicate to ‘actor Cindy’ to channel the emotions and narrative arc. As film editor, I forget that the video footage and stills are of ‘me, Cindy,’ but instead focus on the articulate and artistic fusion of time, image, and sound to create a film. The film creation process from vision to production to reality has been illuminating, intentional, and most of all playful.

Play on,

Play on, Cindy.

From my film “NONFUTURE
“NONFUTURE” by Cindy Nguyen

Watch my film “NONFUTURE: Meditations on Time” here >

Film directed, written, produced, and edited by Cindy Nguyen

Photography and Cinematography by Eric Kim (Thank you for being my creative partner and patient confidant during this time).
Music in Order of Feature:

  • Audbiobinger – “Stress,” “State of Mind”
  • The Passion HiFI – “Keep Fallin”
  • Yung Kartz – “Hallucinations”
  • Evil Needle – “Jazzy Piano”
  • Tupac – “Changes”
  • Charizma Peanut Butter Wolf – “Methods”

3 thoughts on “Making Art in the Time of COVID: Why I Made the Film NONFUTURE”

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