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SBIFF

Noble
updated: Feb 02, 2014, 10:05 AM

By Rosie Sullivan

Noble, directed by Stephen Bradley, 101 mins
For more information on the film, go here.


(Photo Source)

Based on true events, Noble is a poignant tale of perseverance. It is an inspirational story of a single woman who made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese street children. The film opens with an overhead shot of a crowd of people who are drinking and singing along with a blonde little girl. This little girl soon runs off, through the barren streets of Ireland, into a poverty-stricken house that is crowded with many children, a sick and dying mother, and a drunkard of a father. These scenes set the mood of the entire film.

From here, the audience is transported to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The year is 1989 and a blonde, middle- aged woman is landing in the city. She has very little money and checks into a hotel where cockroaches in the shower are the norm. Taking a rickshaw ride, Christina Noble witnesses the absolute poverty and number of orphaned children in the streets. Noble herself seems to have nothing but her strength and a seemingly impossible dream. This dream is to help the street children. As a young woman, Noble had a dream about Saigon, after which she became obsessed with a country she would not have been able to point to on a map. In 1989, she finally goes to Vietnam in the hope of setting up a social and medical center.

There is then a flashback to Noble's childhood. After the death of her mother, all of the children were taken away, sent to various institutions. A seamless transition shows Noble rescuing two Vietnamese girls and smuggling them into her hotel room. She bathes, feeds, and clothes them and is soon taking care of many orphans and is even dubbed ‘Mama Tina' by one of the children, Lam. The film continues this way, shifting between past and present. As the story in 1989 unfolds, a parallel story of Noble's deprived childhood and tough young adulthood is told. The common thread is Noble's strength of will. Throughout all set backs and tragedy in her life, from poverty, to rape, to an abusive husband, to almost getting kicked out of Vietnam, to not receiving support from the Vietnamese government, there is one thing that is clear about Noble - she is never ready to give up. The precocious little Irish girl grows up into a feisty and determined woman.

Several motifs struck me while watching the film. Rampant fog, both in Vietnam and Ireland, helped in setting the tone. Both of these places became such sad-looking countries. An Irish gutter really is the same as a Vietnamese gutter. Another recurring theme is music and song. Nobel had a penchant for singing, anything from Irish shanties to "Dream A Little Dream Of Me." And her singing has such power in the film; not only does it earn her money (both as a child and in Vietnam) but it calms her drunken father and later grants her a work visa. Noble's habit of talking to god is persistent through the entire film. She often ends up in churches, hoping to be led the way or offered an explanation for the many horrors she faces.

I noticed that more effort seemed to have been put into the cinematography of the sequences that took place in Ireland. There were many scenes in this setting that had great camera angles and interesting perspectives. Contrast that with the scenes in Vietnam, where the camera work was subpar. Ah well, I suppose the filmmakers were more concerned with concentrating on Noble's strength of character. I felt that the film ended somewhat abruptly, with what something that seemed a bit out of place - a Coldplay song. Noble is on her way to the airport, leaving Vietnam for the time being, when an Irish businessman she befriended, Jerry, arrives. After months of hounding him for help and money and receiving nothing, she is beyond ecstatic when he gives her the great news that his company wants to champion her project and give $20,000. Cue the song and shots of a courtyard full of playing children. It then cuts to still pictures of the actual Christina Noble surrounded by the children she helped, overlaid by text saying she has helped over 700,000 children and their families! Noble is a gritty and tragic story with an ultimately hopeful ending.

Cast of the film Noble taken on the red carpet Friday evening.

Dierdre O'Kane, Stephen Bradley, Melanie Gore Grimes

 

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