Senior Allyna-Renee Nguyen first heard about leprosy through the stories her father told her when she was a child. She especially remembers learning about about Han Mac Tu, a Vietnamese romantic poet who died of the disease at age 28. Han Mac Tu’s story left such an impression on her that it is the reason she recently made a documentary about leprosy in Vietnam.
“I wanted to make a film about leprosy and the hidden population that suffers from it,” said Nguyen, film productions major with minors in Asian-Pacific studies and Spanish. “Leprosy is actually a quite modern disease, not a just a disease from biblical times. It is only terrifying if we let it be.”
As a recipient of the Donald A. Strauss Public Service Scholarship award, Nguyen traveled to Ca Mau, a village located in the tip of southern Vietnam, to film her documentary, titled “Rain Season.” The movie explores the issues faced by lepers in Vietnam. About 600 lepers live scattered throughout the Ca Mau region’s jungles. They struggle to find proper medical care, transportation, and decent living conditions, along with acceptance and compassion from their community.
“Curing leprosy is easy and inexpensive, and the World Health Organization donates drugs to block transmission, prevent disabilities and cure the disease,” Nguyen said. “However, these drugs cannot reach the people they are intended to help if infected individuals don’t know where to go or fear rejection from society once they admit to having the illness.”
After graduation, Nguyen plans to attend graduate school and pursue a master’s degree in conflict resolution and screenwriting. She hopes to combine her love of filmmaking with her commitment to social justice.
“I want to tell stories that haven’t been told before. I hope my films will encourage people to think about others who are suffering and do something about it,” Nguyen said.
*** “Rain Season” will be screened on Wednesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. in St. Robert’s Auditorium. The showing is free and open to the public.