10 episodes

In the backdrop of the 30th anniversary of Đổi Mới, the name given to the 1986 economic reform known as the ‘Renovation Policy’ that would transform Vietnam, we share portraits of those born after the reform was implemented.

We meet with graphic artists, hardcore metal stars, gallery curators, hip hop artists, poets, entrepreneurs and everything in-between.

The Renovation Generation The Renovation Generation

    • Personal Journals

In the backdrop of the 30th anniversary of Đổi Mới, the name given to the 1986 economic reform known as the ‘Renovation Policy’ that would transform Vietnam, we share portraits of those born after the reform was implemented.

We meet with graphic artists, hardcore metal stars, gallery curators, hip hop artists, poets, entrepreneurs and everything in-between.

    #19 Suboi

    #19 Suboi

    A chat with the Queen of Rap about music, spirituality and being a woman in hip hop.



    Over the last couple of years hip hop artist Suboi has emerged from the underground scene, where she has been active for a decade, to firmly establish herself in the mainstream conscious as a strong voice for her generation. And increasingly (aided by run-ins with Obama and the odd modeling gig with big brands) is making a name for herself in and out of Vietnam’s music industry.

    We met her by the river in Saigon for an afternoon of cà phê sữa đá and chit chat with her about writing music, building her own production company and what it means to be embracing being a female role model and fame.

     

    Links

    Suboi Entertainment

    Suboi on Soundcloud
    Suboi on Instagram



    This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.

    [Reciting poetry]

    Something like that right

    [MUSIC]

    This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation and you’ve probably guessed who that is, seeing that she is one of the biggest influencers and most instantly recognisable individuals of her generation. She is on of the few born and bred alternative Vietnamese voices to have found ears outside of her home country. For our 19th episode we travelled to Saigon for a day to talk about everything but Kenzo and Obama with Suboi.

    [MUSIC]

    Actually my name at home is just Su. My sister is Si right. And then people like hey I never see you like a girlie girl at all, I'm gonna call you Suboi, but you're not a real boy so the y turned into an i.

    She has gone through a few familiar stages of rebelling against gender norms

    I wished I was a boy

    Do you still?

    I love begin a woman now

    She took her first tentative steps into Vietnam’s budding rap scene 10 years ago in all boys crew.

    I tell you this, when a guy put out a song, put on a hat instant favourite rapper and when a woman do it, you have to show really you have skill, not just your face, you don't sleep with nobody until you get anywhere so I'm the only girl in the crew, but I'm the one who really wanna make good music.

    Did it allow you to break through stereotypes of what a woman should be?

    Oh definitely that's why I'm with it.

    She says there are more and more rappers, but there is one gap that isn’t closing

    I don't see any girl coming up yet. At first I didn't want to draw the line between no my skill is rapper like just call me a fucking rapper. My skill is the same, my delivery is the same now I kinda changed like a little, you know just own it, you're female rapper ok female rapper

    Is there also down sides to being one of so few and having no, not just competition but allies as well to learn from?

    It's actually exactly what my life is about. Cause ok I don't want to be the only one. I want to be the number one. But to get there you have to like beat somebody too. Me, I don't have nobody to look up to. That's why I was angry. At first I was like this country is so funny, I think it's stupid. Now I don't say that anymore. All my message is about this. It's about you're from a really small country, but don't think that you're not the same with everybody else in the world. I show people ok I can be on a billboard in New York and I'm from Vietnam. Nobody believed that shit. When I discovered rap I was like woah, this music is so fucking angry and it's ok you know. I am angry.

    What were you angry about?

    I was like a teenager you known i didn't know shit and I couldn't talk to my friends I wasn't in the popular kids in the school, I don't hang out with a group of friends, I'm kinda just like by myself all the time and when I come home I couldn't talk to my parents or I couldn't talk to my sister. She always yell at me.

    Suboi stopped being confrontational and found she could and should us...

    #18 Khắc Giang Nguyễn

    #18 Khắc Giang Nguyễn

    A policy researcher and columnist's post-ideological musings

    Khắc Giang Nguyễn firmly believes there is a need to give civil society more of a voice, but he also thinks this need not mean major political reforms as many an ideology has proven to be problematic once implemented.

    For our interview we went for a Sunday afternoon stroll around Hoàn Kiếm Lake followed by a coffee. We chatted about why how his personality and lack of connections make him unsuitable to be a politician, what happens when a people forgets to nurture its creative side and what is lost when written from one perspective only.

    Từ những suy nghĩ hậu ý thức hệ của mình, Nguyễn Khắc Giang - một cây viết, một nhà nghiên cứu chính sách tin tưởng rằng xã hội dân sự của chúng ta cần được trao quyền nhiều hơn, nhưng anh cũng cho rằng việc này không có nghĩa là cần có một cải cách chính trị lớn vì sự thật là nhiều hệ tư tưởng đã được chứng minh là không thích hợp sau khi được áp dụng.

    Trong cuộc phỏng vấn lần này, chúng tôi đã đi dạo một vòng quanh hồ Hoàn Kiếm trong một chiều Chủ Nhật, và thưởng thức một tách cà phê. Chúng tôi đã nói chuyện về việc tại sao tính cách và việc thiếu các mối quan hệ lại khiến anh không thể trở thành một chính trị gia, việc gì sẽ xảy ra khi chúng ta quên không nuôi dưỡng mặt sáng tạo của mình và cái gì sẽ bị mất đi khi chúng ta chỉ viết từ một góc nhìn.

     

    Links

    Giang's blog - The Worldview of an Asian
    Giang's VN Express column



     

    This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.

    Policy researcher and columnist Khắc Giang Nguyễn believes there is a need to give civil society a voice and that this can happen without major political reform. We live in a post-ideological world in which there is no one-size fits all answer for complex situations. Small victories need to be acknowledged. Like seeing the positive changes to the energy in downtown Hanoi achieved by turning the busy area around Hoàn Kiếm Lake into a pedestrian zone on evenings and weekends. It may not be enough, but it’s certainly something.

    It’s very relaxed.

    It’s nice. So this is the first time you’ve seen a development like this.

    You know in Hanoi this is a total breakthrough because this area is very big.

    There are no motorbikes, just street musician, skate boarders and young families taking their kids out for a day. For our 18th episode we took a walk with Giang around the lake.

    Ok, My name is Nguyễn Khắc Giang. I’m 28.

    I don’t disagree with other activists, really like strong activists that are opposed to the government opposed to the way that the government is controlling the society. But I think that in the big society you have the people at the periphery – you know the people who actually try to break it. And then you have the middle man you know the people at the middle who want to be activists but actually they approach a way that could accommodate the government and the people in a milder way.

    Is that where you are?

    Yeah I think so. I think it’s more effective to work that way.

    The new pedestrian zone proved to be louder and livelier than we had anticipated and we quickly retreated to the café at the Hotel de l’Opera on Tràng Tiền street to continue our conversation.

    Let’s go find a coffee somewhere

    Yeah sure.

    ….

    Yeah, we’ll just have… can we just have a coffee?

    Giang was born to a mother who worked for a state-owned candy factory and a father who was a builder and he was raised in Nghệ An, most famous for being Hồ Chí Minh’s place of birth.

    Possibly even I wouldn't be born if Đ

    • 15 min
    #17 Trần Văn Nhật

    #17 Trần Văn Nhật

    A Huế  based NGO worker bringing change to the shelter he grew up in

    For episode 17 we travelled to central Vietnam to talk Nhật who lost his parents when he was young boy and had to move from a small village to Huế.

    He now works at the shelter he grew up in and on a stroll around the city's citadel we talked to him about countryside living, helping to improve the lives of children who suffered similar tragedies to his and finding success despite some academic set-backs.

    Một nhân viên làm trong tổ chức phi chính phủ tại Huế, người đang mang lại đổi thay cho ngôi nhà tình thương nơi anh khôn lớn.

    Trong tập 17, chúng tôi đã vào miền Trung để gặp Trần Văn Nhật. Anh mồ côi cha mẹ từ bé và phải rời ngôi làng nhỏ của mình lên sống ở thành phố Huế.

    Anh hiện đang làm việc tại mái ấm nơi anh được nuôi lớn. Cùng anh đi dạo quanh Đại Nội, chúng tôi đã trò chuyện về cuộc sống ở nông thôn, về việc cải thiện cuộc sống của những đứa trẻ đang trải qua bi kịch giống anh và việc tìm kiếm thành công dù thất bại trong học tập.



    This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.

    For episode 17 we travelled to central Vietnam to meet Tran Van Nhật. His start in life was very different to most of the Renovation Generationer’s. We met him in Huế’s town centre.  

    When I was young, my Mother take me to the city once, but I didn’t remember that much…

    Born in 1991, Nhật grew up in a village of only 300 people outside of Huế.

    It's a small village, small houses, small street. The river divides the river into two. It’s a peaceful place. Since I moved  back to Huế to work I spend my weekend there... go fishing…

    He would have lived there until university age, but when he was nine, the course of his life changed dramatically.

    We had another conversation with him on Skype…

    My Father passed away when I was in Grade 3, then three years later my Mother passed away.

    So himself and his youngest Brother were taken to live in the shelter, a home for orphaned children to live and study in Huế.

    It was a very hard time for me and for everyone else in the family as well. My Brother and my Sister had to skip school so we can afford me and my younger brother to continue on studying.

    This is when Nhật and his youngest brother spent the rest of their childhood, along with 41 other kids, from Grade 1 to university age.

    It’s like a life I never ever imagined that I can have, you know back home I don’t have anything, I don't know anything. Come to the shelter I have my own bed, I have people taking care of me, I have friends, I have books and pens, I have everything, I have night clothes and I go to a school that ten times bigger than the school I got to from my village. It’s like my home town was Huế and then Huế was like New York.

    But it wasn’t all happiness in the shelter. Being older, he can reflect back now on parts of growing up there, which were really difficult.


    I remember there’s a time they build a fence. They build a fence between the kids house and the staff houses, make people think they came here to live, but it’s not like a home.

    Volunteers coming from around the world for their Vietnam experience

    You can learn from them a lot, but it’s also a disadvantage for the kids, because it's like you know people come and you get close and then they leave. Sometime they come back sometimes they don’t. Some of the kids they spend time with them and they don't care about school, they don’t study, they don't do anything.

     The typical teenage exam pressures came in school.

    My dream was to become an English teacher at the time, but I failed my test and I was so do

    • 8 min
    #16 Mia, Mai, Giang & Boba

    #16 Mia, Mai, Giang & Boba

    Four teenagers trying to make sense of their identity, privilege and future.

    We invited four young women in their late teens for a chat over coffee and cake to find out what they think about privilege, not being taken seriously by the generation before them and their hopes for the future.

    Mia, Mai, Boba and Giang all come from families who have benefited from the possibilities that Đổi Mới brought for some people in Vietnam. Access to international education, social opportunities and financial stability have shaped their young lives. When we met them they were studying abroad already or preparing to do so.


    Bốn thiếu niên trò chuyện về hành trình khám phá bản thân, những đặc quyền và dự định tương lai.

    Chúng mình đã mời bốn cô gái trẻ sắp hết tuổi vị thành niên đi uống cà phê và ăn bánh để tìm hiểu suy nghĩ của họ về những đặc quyền, việc không được những thế hệ đi trước coi trọng và những hi vọng của họ về tương lai.

    Mia, Mai, Boba và Giang đều đến từ những gia đình khá giả, cũng như nhiều gia đình khác, họ đã nhận được nhiều lợi ích mà công cuộc Đổi Mới ở Việt Nam đã mang lại. Giáo dục quốc tế, cơ hội rộng mở và ổn định tài chính là những yếu tố đã hình thành nên con người họ hôm nay. Vào lúc chúng mình gặp nhau, họ vẫn đang học ở nước ngoài, hoặc chuẩn bị đi du học.

    Transcript
    For full transcript, click “Next”



    [FULL TRANSCRIPT]

    This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.

    For episode 16 we invited four young women in their late teens for a chat over coffee and cake. We wanted to find out what they think about privilege, not being taken seriously by the generation before them and their hopes for the future.

    Mia: I am Mia Nguyen and I was born in 1997

    Mai: My name is Mai Pham and I was born in 1998

    Giang: Giang Khuat and I was born in 1998

    Boba: Boba and I'm 18 this September.

    Mia, Mai, Boba and Giang all come from families who have benefited from the possibilities that Đổi Mới brought for some people in Vietnam. Access to international education, social opportunities and financial stability have shaped their young lives. They are studying abroad already or are preparing to do so and we had some questions for them…

    What are your work aspirations?

    Boba: I want to open an organisation for aiming at teaching kids, educate them through skating or sport or especially children from poverty or street kids

    Mai: I like in the future one of my dreams is to open a gallery there is a huge underappriciation for art here in this country and that's definitely something I want to work on.

    Giang: I have no idea want I want to do with my life sometimes. Like with all my heart I want to be a lawyer, but like it's stupid when you go to America to study law and come back to Vietnam to practice law right, cause it's different law, but now I am still trying to figure it out how to study in America and practice law in Vietnam.

    Where is home for you?

    Do you guys all want to come back here though after your studies?

    Mai: I do

    Giang: I do

    Mai: As a kid, ever since I was five, I've gone to international schools and a lot of people tell me I like mất gốc which means I don't have like the Vietnamese roots with me, and I think as I grow up and now that I am boarding in America, like there is like this feeling that I get when I come home and I know when I walk around the streets of Hanoi, I know the streets well and I know that this is home.

    Mia: Now that I am away, somehow I have become more Vietnamese. In terms of like I embrace my culture a lot more when I am abroad. For example I guess my connection between me

    • 15 min
    #15 Plaaastic

    #15 Plaaastic

    Emo style icon and Internet artist on online popularity and personal struggles.




    Plaaastic is one of Vietnam's most popular and successful online personas. She is a fashion blogger and Internet artist who has established herself as a queen of virtual emo. She lives in a part of the internet where Hello Kitty meets bondage fantasies and teenage souls find comfort in being weird.

    We spoke to her about the blurred lines between her art and commercial endeavor, how intense loneliness led to online success and getting married to a guy two weeks after meeting him.

    Biểu tượng phong cách emo và nghệ sĩ Internet chia sẻ về sự nổi tiếng trên mạng và những cuộc đấu tranh cá nhân.

    Plaaastic là một trong những nhân vật online thành công và nổi tiếng nhất Việt Nam. Cô ấy là blogger thời trang và nghệ sĩ internet, người được biết tới như một nữ hoàng emo trong thế giới mạng. Cô sống trong ở nơi Hello Kitty gặp những ảo mộng nhục dục và những tâm hồn thiếu niên tìm kiếm sự an ủi trong việc trở nên kỳ quặc

    Chúng tôi đã nói chuyện với cô ấy về ranh giới mờ ảo giữa nghệ thuật và thương mại, thành công đến từ sự cô đơn tột cùng và cuộc hôn nhân với một chàng trai chỉ sau hai tuần gặp gỡ.

    Links

    Plaaastic Blog
    Plaaastic Instagram
    Plaaastic Tumblr
    Plaaastic Facebook
    Plaaastic Lookbook
    Plaaastic Twitter

    Transcript
    For full transcript, click “Next”



    [FULL TRANSCRIPT]

    This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.

    In Episode 15 we talk to Plaaastic, the fashion blogger and Internet artist who has established herself as a queen of virtual emo. She lives in a part of the Internet where Hello Kitty meets bondage fantasies and teenage souls find comfort in being weird. We spoke to her about the blurred lines between her art and commercial endeavor, how intense loneliness led to online success and getting married to a guy two weeks after meeting him.

    She is wearing a denim mini skirt buttoned down the front, a black leather crop top with fake nipple piercings, and a pair of her signature platform shoes. Her perfectly combed high ponytails have dark purple highlights and her lipstick is the same colour.

    For me fashion is a way to show myself respect... It is important for me to dress how I feel like dressing and looking like yourself is the first part to self awareness.

    Her unapologetic attitude to fashion and out-there styling has become her career. As a teenager she could not afford the clothes she wanted to wear so she simply started making and selling them herself. And being a digital native, she used the Internet to help…

    I open a blog to like showcase how people can wear the clothes from my brand. And then somehow the blog got more popular than the clothing store, so I closed down the store and then I just make the blog bigger and bigger, to what it is today. That is my main mainly earning job now...

    How does that work? for somebody who doesn't know how to make money of social media, like how do you?...

    It's fairly simple, the bigger the audience that you have, the more money they will pay. And I work as a producer between, so they send me clothes and I will produce the images to advertise for that product and I post it on my social media site.

    They being indie fashion labels who ask Plaaastic to feature their clothes on her blog, because of her numbers that are currently:

    Seven-hundred-and-thirty-thousand-two-hundred-and-forty-six visits on her blog
    Three-hundred-and-forty-three-thousand Instagram followers
    Twenty-eight-thousand likes on Facebook

    • 11 min
    #14 Hoàng Đức Minh

    #14 Hoàng Đức Minh

    A social activist/entrepreneur's utopia of educational reform and communal living.

    Hoàng Đức Minh has over the last few years made a name for himself in the world of social and environmental activism and was selected by Forbes Vietnam as one of their 30 under 30s.

    We visited him to talk about his start up Wake It Up, how seeing people cry has decided his career path and being a child with many questions and few answers.

    Nhà hoạt động xã hội/doanh nhân với ước mơ về cải tổ giáo dục và cuộc sống cộng đồng.

    Hoàng Đức Minh đã gây dựng được tên tuổi trong giới hoạt động xã hội và môi trường. Anh được tạp chí Forbes Việt Nam lựa chọn là một trong số 30 gương mặt nổi bật dưới tuổi 30.

    Câu chuyện của chúng tôi xoay quanh công ty khởi nghiệp Wake It Up của anh, việc nước mắt của những người xung quanh đã quyết định con đường sự nghiệp của anh thế nào và về tuổi thơ với nhiều câu hỏi mà chỉ có rất ít câu trả lời.

    Links

    Wake It Up
    Watch Vietnam

    Transcript
    For full transcript, click “Next”



    [FULL TRANSCRIPT]

    This is Vietnam’s Renovation Generation. Sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future.

    In episode 14 we visit the entrepreneur Hoàng Đức Minh who was selected by Forbes Vietnam as one of 30 under 30. We talk about his utopia of living in harmony with all his friends and doing nothing and how education could benefit from a using a variety of teaching approaches.

    [atmo - We have no idea where we are going. So we could be on our way to get murdered right now. We are just going to a stranger’s house and the only reason we trust him is cause he is an activist.]

    My name is Minh. I am 26, I am the founder of Wake It Up, a platform for the social activists.

    Minh’s company Wake It Up is a start up in its early phases. It is a combination of crowd funding and a platform, which allows social and environmental activists to connect with supporters and sponsors. Minh has experienced some shortcomings of social media platforms. So his website does three things:

    One: it counts active supporters

    It's not like Facebook, you can have like 60,000 people like your fan page, but you don't know who are they, where are they from. It's really hard. You have to pay the money just to reach the people who follow you on Facebook. So we think that we need a platform for social activists to connect with their participants.

    Two: it allows easy communication between activists and their ‘likers’

    …you propose a project online and you looking for a company to sponsor for the project.. they will sponsor based on the number who support the project.

    And three it uses those numbers to connect projects with funders

    The reason Minh got involved in social and environmental activism is not just about helping successful campaigns…

    I don't want to be a hero. I don't think I can stand in front of the suffering of people around. The question about what is this world for, what is this program, this interview for, it's hard to say. No one told you the real answer right. So you need to find one for yourself...

    But for me, for fun is the most important thing first. It’s hard to be fun when people are crying around you.

    Even as a child Minh’s idea of fun was a little more intense than that of his peers.

    I always get bored very soon. For me I don't find any meaning with playing alone and playing with the toys. I am really a social one, I need to talk, I need information and I need discussion. But no one talk to me at that time, and no one answer my question, why we need to die, why people married...

    so little Minh found distraction…

    My mum and my father they are scientists and they have a lot of books. My father teaching programming, I t

    • 10 min

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