A Crack in the Mountain
The slow trudge from the opening mouth of the world’s largest cave to its end is a journey in some ways similar to fighting a noble cause: it’s the same kind of thing the #SaveSonDoong group face each day – an uphill battle to a breathtaking view at the end of the journey. A Crack in the Mountain tells the story of this journey. Directed by Alastair Evans, the documentary showcases the continuous battle to preserve such a wonderful phenomenon in nature.
Though A Crack in the Mountain is slow-paced and dawdles at the start, it’s well balanced and offers several different perspectives. The interviewees range from casual visitors to the cave to university professors, explorers, porters and activists. This provides nuance to the discussions at hand, mainly, the war between commercial development and preservation, showcasing the difficulties of being an activist in Vietnam, and highlighting the pros and cons of tourism and how it impacts a location and the people living in it. The narrative also looks at the economic impact and positive elements of commercialisation in certain cases.
But the most important voice in the entire picture is Huong Nguyen Thien Le, co-founder of #SaveSonDoong. Her passion for the campaign is one of the most powerful weapons in selling the cause. She breaks down the consequences of building cable cars in the cave: from less than 100 visitors per year to 1,000 per hour, which has effectively destroyed the delicate ecosystem. Huong Nguyen is so effective in detailing the efforts of the group, providing something human in an otherwise direct and stripped-back feature. For example, when she’s describing people from all over the world taking pictures with the #SaveSonDoong sign, she mentions how many of the people participating may never visit Hang Son Doong themselves – but they’re joining in because they see the same thing happening in their own countries.
In terms of production, there are definitely parts that fall a little bit flat. Some of the cinematographic choices – angles, choice of focus on certain people and objects, shaky use of the rule of thirds, amputation – can be distracting from the beauty of the location, and even the topics in question. The cave itself looks majestic, but there’s too much dramatisation surrounding it, from the voiceovers to the music. Hang Son Doong is so beautiful on its own; it might have been better if the visuals of the cave had spoken for themselves.
A Crack in the Mountain is released in select cinemas on 26th May 2023.
Watch the trailer for A Crack in the Mountain here: