[HMONG] Hlub Kua Muag Iab: A story of forgiveness?

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Hey there, I know I haven’t wrote for a while, but here I am again to ramble about another Hmong movie series I watched (skimmed mostly). However, I really find the theme of this movie interesting (mentioned later in post). The acting isn’t so much, but mostly just the theme. I feel like the director has really good movie ideas, but sometimes, there are scenes that are dragged out for too long or unnecessary.

BEFORE READING, READ THIS: ***This post is subjective, with some history that can be objective, so please do not get offended. If you do feel offended, please refrain/stop from reading. Again, this post is full of my opinions and how I interpreted the movie. Opinions are welcomed, but please don’t be rude.
This post is for entertainment and sharing purposes only, and not for any other gains. This piece of writing is by no means professional…

Okay, so here we go…

Title: Hlub Kua Muag Iab
Hlub: Love
Kua Muag: Tears
Iab: Bitter
My guess will probably be: Bitter Love Tears (?), lol I’m not too sure. I understand the meaning, but it’s difficult to translate.
However, the English title for this is:
The Internal Heart, which doesn’t make sense to me, lol, but if it’s what the director wanted, then it is that.

This movie series have 4 episodes that are about 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes long.
Link to watch: Hlub Kua Muag Iab (The Internal Heart) Ep.1  (from P&P Production)

Background: Brief preview of the theme of the movie: This is supposed to be a romantic movie, but it also ties in the theme of hate, love, and war the Hmong people experienced. If you don’t know much about the Hmong, during the Vietnam War, the United States (US)/CIA recruited them to help. The Hmong did not help directly, but indirectly, in Laos, their motherland (This was known as the Secret War, read more here: Hmong and the Secret War).
During that time, there was a split in population, and especially in the Hmong population, causing a civil war. Some Hmong people joined the Communists side, while some joined the other side (can be referred to as the Democratic side) and helped the US instead.

The movie started out with history… it explained what happened back in the Secret War. The pain and sacrifice made by the Hmong people.

And then it jumps right into the present, where our main guy, Thee, is upset that he won’t be able to go to Thailand to study. [He is from Laos.] His friends tries to cheer him up; however, he remains upset because he won’t be able to follow his dream.

However, while hanging out with this girlfriend, Thee receives a phone call, telling him that he is able to go to Thailand. He is super excited, but also sad that he will be leaving his girlfriend. Before he leaves, he made a promise to his girlfriend that he won’t cheat on her, assuring her.

In Thailand, it is the main girl’s birthday. The main girl, Pa-yeng [(Paj Yeeb, (paj=flower, yeeb=opium) Paj Yeeb basically is the opium flower, but can also mean the color purple/pink.] Her fiance, Keng (Keej= able, good at something), turns out to be friends with Thee. Keng is picking up Thee at the airport while Payeng waits with her friends at home for them. Thee and Keng finally joined them and they partied away. They all later became drunk and Keng cheated on Pa-yeng with one of her friends.

The next morning, Thee cook breakfast for everyone, impressing one of Pa-yeng’s friend, Nplaim (can mean either flame or petal).

They then head to school and study. The class they are studying talks about Human Rights and Violation.

Keng and Pa-yeng are part of a club. The government authorities will be visiting their university soon; therefore, they have prepared a project to present to the authorities. Keng has his professor review the presentation he was planning on giving. The professor told him that his idea was good, but cannot be used. Keng’s presentation is about how the Lao government mistreats the Hmong people in Laos, and how they should not label the Hmong as “traitors” or mistreat them. This kind of act seems like a mini rebellion, according to the teacher. He tells Keng that the Hmong people have now live peacefully within the countries they have settled in already, and that this act could possibly hurt that peace. He continues on that Hmong people are small because of the lack of a country; therefore, they have to maintain peace in order to live in other people’s country. However, Keng disagrees and states that even though Hmong people are small, they should not let the bigger people always step and control them. They should fight, and as a human, they have that right. He asks the professor to rethink about all the pain and sacrifice the Hmong people made during the Secret War.

Keng then returns back to his friends. Nplaim noticed that Keng is upset and asks him if he got scold by the professor. He then tells everyone that the professor disapproves of his project because he wants to hold his job and maintain the peace instead of doing what is right. Thee softly adds that he agrees with the professor, stating that presenting this case may just make other countries detest the Hmong people. Thee thinks that Keng will just be re-kindling the fire that is already put out. As he states that, Pa-yeng gets mad with him. She slaps him with displeasure, calling him a “Lao person” (traitor) and then insults him. Thee is surprise with her rough actions.

However with Pa-yeng being mad, Thee only wants to tease her more. As the others left, he purposefully tease her by blowing a kiss. That got her more mad, and she throws her foundation makeup palette at his face. Ouch, that must hurt!

Their teasing game gets further as Thee joins Pa-yeng and her friend for a photo session. Pa-yeng decides to tease Thee again by asking him to pick up a flower for her in the water. As she’s telling him which one, and he trying to look for it, she kicks him into the water, where he drowns. Thee is save on land, and Pa-yeng is pressure to perform CPR on him since she was the one who push him into the water. Pa-yeng then performs CPR on Thee. He then wakes up and laughs at her. Everyone else laughs along with him, and Pa-yeng realizes that she was the one who got teased. Thee receives another slap from her. Pa-yeng then left the scene.

The movie then transition into Thee having a bad dream. He dreams of a woman getting shot, and a man and small child going to that woman to comfort her. There was also communist soldiers standing by. Thee then wakes up, only to find out it was a dream. He leaves his bed and went out into the living room where he calls his girlfriend. He then learns that his girlfriend wasn’t able to keep their promise and had already married.

Despite Thee’s sadness, he is again faced with the problem of keeping his friends Pa-yeng and Keng, or going with his beliefs. The presentation gets closer and the club continues to plan out the presentation. They plan to continue on with it, even if Thee disapproves of it.
On the day of the presentation, unexpectedly, Thee steps up to help his friends with their presentation. He takes their side, and ends up having a heated argument with a government authority, resulting in a win for the club.

After this, Keng and Pa-yeng starts to be kind to Thee and they all became friends again. Keng and Pa-yeng comments on Thee’s brilliant argument and also compliment him.

Thee then starts to tell Keng and Pa-yeng a little history. He shows them the Lao paper money and mentions that a Hmong lady is put on the paper money. He continues on to say that in actuality, Hmong people have value to the Lao people because they put the Hmong on their paper money. He explains of how the Hmong people were divided into two sides back then because of their different beliefs.
After this, they all got along together better. Keng ends up leaving early because he has an appointment; however, he goes and cheats behind Pa-yeng’s back once again. Only this time with an unknown woman.

Thee and Pa-yeng continues the discussion; however, it soon leads to their personal life, especially Thee. Pa-yeng starts to be interested in his personal life. He tells her that his girlfriend is married and looks sad.

As they continue the conversation, Thee touches a bit on Pa-yeng’s personal life as well. He asks her why she have such strong feelings about the project they presented. Pa-yeng then explains to him that after the Secret War, her family had ran away from Laos, into the jungles to escape persecution from the communists. Her father is the leader of one of the groups that choose to fled to Thailand for safety.

However, misfortune hits, and the communist caught up with their group. Many people were killed. Pa-yeng’s father, as a leader, cannot leave his people behind, he has to stay behind and help. He has also been injured. Pa-yeng, a child at the time, and her mother were taken to safety, by her uncle. However, they stay within distance to see her father getting killed. Pa-yeng mentions that she has never forgotten the scene of her father’s death, how he had begged for his life, but was still killed anyway. She also have never forgotten the face of the person that had killed her father.

After the story, Thee feels sad for Pa-yeng and pulls her in for a hug. As they hug, the rain starts to pour down on them, forcing them to look for cover. They then found a place and went under it. With their vulnerability increased because of the deep personal talks they had before, they did something unexpected: kiss.

As the rain settles, they head home to find an angry Keng. Keng accuses Pa-yeng of wanting to have an affair with Thee, which gets Pa-yeng angry. She breaks the news to Keng that she knew he was cheating on her with her friend. That then gets Keng to realize that he was wrong for accusing Pa-yeng. If he doesn’t apologize, he may lose her entirely. He then kneels down and begs her for forgiveness.

Pa-yeng’s heart starts to waver in this process. She forgives Keng for his awful actions, but now is leaning her heart towards Thee. She now kind of have feelings for Thee, but then also realizes that they weren’t meant to be. Pa-yeng and Keng were always meant to be because her family owed his family. Pa-yeng was the payment being paid to Keng. She was to be his bride, no matter if she’s willing or not. She has no say.
Pa-yeng tries to put away her feelings for Thee, and asks him to forget about her. She is not an option for him, and that he should look for someone else. She tells him that they both should move on.

Pa-yeng and Keng then decides to complete this payment and marry. Keng takes Pa-yeng home to his uncle and aunt’s house to perform the marriage ritual of putting the chicken over the groom and bride’s head and wishing them well in their marriage. Just as this begin, a woman came and halts their marriage ritual. It turns out to be the girl Keng had an affair with. She was now pregnant with his child, and has come to claim him.
As if the problem couldn’t get messier, another pregnant woman shows up, also making the same claim as the first.
Pa-yeng is disgusted and refuses to marry Keng. Keng then gets overwhelm with everything and faints.

Thee was about ready to get going on with his life, as what Pa-yeng suggested. Nplaim accompanies him, and receives a phone call that the marriage between Keng and Pa-yeng is off. She suggests Thee to go back and fight for his love for Pa-yeng.

Even though Pa-yeng doesn’t want to marry Keng anymore, but he doesn’t give up. Pa-yeng is super disappointed and sad with Keng’s poor decisions and goes onto a cliff. There, she sees a vision of her father coming to comfort her.

As Pa-yeng comes back from the cliffs, she is met with Keng. She doesn’t want to associate with him, but he won’t let her be. He harms her and tries to rape her, but luckily, Thee and Nplaim made it on time to save her.

Thee and Keng ends up fighting.

However, the fight does not end with either a loser or winner. Both friends fought until they were tired, out of strength; yet still, a winner cannot be determined.
*To me, this scene brings significance. Literally, it can just be seen as two guys fighting for a girl, but I guess for me, I see some deeper meaning, concerning the whole plot of this movie of course. This scene seems to depict the inability of forgiveness between the Hmong people.
After the war, people turn bitter, and they especially turn bitter to people on the other side, who hurt them.  With this hatred for each other, there’s only pain and loss for both side, as we clearly sees there’s no winner here with the two friends fighting******

Keng finally gives in, knowing that he can’t win over Pa-yeng’s heart anymore. He apologizes for all the agonies he put her through. He now allows her to love whoever she wishes. She is no longer bind to him.
Pa-yeng and Thee confesses their real feelings for each other and loves happily.

And that concludes our movie, right? Happily Ever After?
WRONG! There’s still more…

Thee has go to back to Laos and talk to his father about his bride and bring money for the bride price.
After Thee’s departure, Pa-yeng finds out that she is pregnant, and waits happily for Thee’s return.

Thee finally returns with his father to finalize their marriage. As the couple sees each other, they walk to each other and embrace affectionally.

Thee then introduces Pa-yeng to his father. Pa-yeng stares at her future father-in-law for a while, studying his face. She mentions to him that he looks familiar; however, he waves it off, telling her it’s impossible because this is his first time in Thailand. Pa-yeng then didn’t give too much thought and they head to her house.

They finally reach Pa-yeng’s house. Pa-yeng’s mother and uncle happen to come at that time and meets with Thee’s father. Nothing has been spoken, but something is certainly wrong once the parents met each other. Thee’s father have a guilty face while Pa-yeng’s uncle stares at him angrily. However, they try to hide it from the children. They had Pa-yeng and Thee go to the market, leaving them all alone. Pa-yeng’s uncle calls in Keng and other men. It turns out that Thee’s father is the one who killed both of Keng’s parents and Pa-yeng’s father. Keng and the other men beats up Thee’s father.

As Thee and Pa-yeng approaches the house, Thee saw what was happening and went quickly to help his father. He is angry at Keng for doing such a thing to his father and asks why. Keng then tells Thee that his father was the one who killed his parents along with Pa-yeng’s father. Keng and his people then beats up Thee, while Pa-yeng have a mental breakdown, unable to digest the truth that the father of the person she loves is the person who killed her father.

The fight was finally stopped and they went over to the chief village’s house to discuss the problem. Everyone agrees that Thee’s father will return back to Laos and bring money as compensation for the wrong he did. Thee is held hostage while his father goes back to Laos.

But after the meeting, Keng and his uncle did not keep the agreement. They hunt Thee’s father down and tries to kill him. Thee knew of this and escapes from the people who is looking after him.

After catching up with Thee’s father, Keng’s uncle tries to kill him; however, he let Thee’s father say his last words first. Thee’s father apologizes again and tries to tell his story.

Back then, Thee’s family was captured by the communists. His father was forced to tell the locations of where the other Hmong people are. The communists also tried to rape Thee’s mother, but she ran away and in the process, got shot by one of the communist.
(This is also true that back then, the Hmong on the non-communists side where captured and forced to join the communist sides through threats and torture. Leaders were also brain-washed and sent to concentration camps).

This was the same scene from Thee’s dream. It was his mother that die from the communist’s hands.

To the scene where Payeng’s father died, the truth was that Pa-yeng’s father had begged Thee’s father to grant him death. He would rather die than be put into the concentration camps and be tortured. Thee’s father granted his wish and in return, killed him.

After hearing the story, Keng’s uncle cries and hugs Thee’s father. He finally understood that it wasn’t Thee’s father’s fault and that he was forced. He had also help Pa-yeng’s father escape into the easier route. They all finally understands and forgives.

Keng also gives Thee a hug and apologizes for his rash actions. They’re back to being friends now.

All, but one forgives. Pa-yeng refuses to forgive Thee or his father. She still can’t get over the fact that she loves her enemy and choose to separate from Thee.

Pa-yeng also chooses to terminate her pregnancy without letting Thee know. Thee rushes to the hospital upon discovering Pa-yeng’s plan for abortion. He hopes to persuade her, but unfortunately for him, he is met with a car accident, sending him badly injured to the hospital. As Pa-yeng lays down to relax before the procedure, she sees the video of news of Thee getting injured. She rushes out of the room to see him.

After seeing him hurt and in between life and death, Pa-yeng chooses to finally forgive Thee. She is sad and wants him back.

And the movie closes on a cliffhanger: with Thee in between life and death, and Pa-yeng probably regretting not forgiving the person she loves.

My thoughts (Randomly written, string of my thoughts):

-In a way, it was a like a civil war, and in such a war, there’s more loss than gains. Look at the American war; many Americans suffer from it and there were much more deaths compared to the other wars.

It’s about not adding anymore oil and creating more flames when the fire is dying out. Forgiveness is hard, but not unavoidable. By forgiving, we (as Hmong people) are not forgetting that all that horrific events happened; it will still be there. However, we can’t go back and change the past; therefore, we need to move on forward and take that painful history as a lesson, to love, forgive, and flourish as Hmong.

We, Hmong, have made this far and there has been so many successes, don’t let our past define or sabotage us. Our parents, great-grandparents, and ancestors didn’t sacrifice this much for us to fail. They sacrificed, so we can thrive.

While writing this, I was so emotional, so many feelings inside of me. This is a sensitive topic for me and I’m sure, also for many other Hmong people.

(another topic) While watching Hmong for Freedom (another movie), when the Hmong joined the communists, I was confused and asked my dad why they joined the communists instead of the Thai Royal Army. You see, I have always seem Hmong people as the “good” people that assisted other countries and have the most loss. Boy was I wrong.

What has happened to the Hmong people was NOT OKAY, but we should forgive and allow ourself to heal.

Dedication song (It’s old, but I still love the message it brings):


Don’t forget!………

❤ Falada

P.S. I was inactive for so long, and it took me forever to finish this piece, so do forgive me for any mistakes 🙂 Honestly, I’m still unsatisfied with the writing, but I’mma post anyway because it’s taking me way too long!
Hoped y’all enjoyed the read.

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