Một hôm, thức dậy, tôi thấy lưỡi mình treo trên tường.
film and haiku
Author: Werner Penzel
Published on: 9/10/2015 5:03:46 PM

Thinking in words, writing words, reading them, speaking them, I feel a special intimacy with certain ones put together in certain spaces. And to words as a medium I have been mostly faithful, maybe overly faithful. So to leave them, to speak in images only, I find myself in the warm silence that (voluntary) surrender occasionally bears.

In the world without words, I do not need my old muscle of vocabulary, I do not need to render experience into language, render feeling into thought. Let feeling be, let the thing be. In this world I feel my attention shift instead to time and the body.

When does a moment start, when does a moment end? When do I breathe in, when do I breathe out? What is my heart doing? What quickens it exactly, and what is tightening it now?

I like the haiku because it demands brevity and essence. Within the limitations of its simple three-line structure, we can touch the very core of something. To use this poetic structure in filmmaking demands a similar essence be brought out in precious time. And because following the rules is easy, even the unfaithful word lover can make one.

- Kaitlin Rees



We often see or sense something that gives us a bit of joy, or a moment of pure sadness. Perhaps it is the funnies flapping in the breeze before a newsstand on a sunny spring day. Or some scent on the wind catches us as we step from the bus, or bend to lift the groceries from the car. Something tickles our ankle and, looking down to see what it is, we see more:

a baby crab
climbs up my leg –
such clear water

Or we are lying awake, alone with our thoughts, and as we turn to look at the clock

at midnight
a distant door
pulled shut

and we find ourselves more alone, because of the being on the other side of that door, than when we had no thoughts for others anywhere in the world.

The first of these two short poems was written about three hundred years ago by the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. The second one is by a twentieth century poet, Ozaki Hosai. Both poems are haiku.

Jean-Luc Godard once said: “A movie consists of three parts: a beginning, a middle and an end – but not necessarily in that succession”.

Transferring the system of haiku-writing into movie-making might be the shortest (but not necessarily the easiest) way of making a movie: three shots in a line make one whole movie.

By practicing haiku-movie-making we can find out and learn about the essentials of moviemaking without getting locked up in too much theory, but rather learning by doing, discovering, how to find the magic of a single moment and capture it at the same time with a running camera. Not only accepting the unforeseen and unintentional but learning how to work with it by developing ways that allow chance and composition to work together in the editing-process too.”

- Werner Penzel


The following haiku films were born in the Haiku Happens three-day workshop with Werner Penzel in Hanoi Doclab in the fall 2014. “HAIKU happens” is a platform of filmmaking, a new and open genre – inspired by the art of Japanese Haiku-poetry: make a movie out of three moving images.

1. baby fish, a film by Trần Ngọc Sáng

haikus for baby fish

I was dead before you
Arrived with your stitched palm of nets
The mortal ebb my own

- Jacques Smit

Red sun
floating fish eyes
a lying horizon

- Dinh Tran Phuong

2. a hidden corner, a film by Phan Lê Chung


haiku for a hidden corner

a white dress flies dry
a hand halts
the spring sky 

- Dinh Tran Phuong

3. circles, a film by Nhã Thuyen


haiku for circles

an early moon
a noon facing the sea
gentle waves

Dinh Tran Phuong

4. a man in a night dance club, a film by Phạm Thị Hảo


5. you become not you, a film by Kaitlin Rees


6. a swimming bowl, a film by Đồng Thảo