In May 2023, a Swedish ICORN City of Refuge welcomed Vietnamese filmmaker Clay Pham for the period 2023-2025. Since arriving in Sweden, Pham has continued to pursue his filmmaking career while settling in his City of Refuge. His work focuses on socio-political issues, including human rights violations, the environment, freedom of expression.
Holding degrees in Film and Television as well as Economics, Clay Pham began working as assistant director and collaborating with notable Vietnamese filmmakers, such as Huỳnh Anh Tuấn after his graduation in 2016.
He was awarded a scholarship by VOICE (Vietnam Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment). This enabled him to study civil society development in the Philippines which further developed his interest in human rights and inspired him to make a documentary about prisoners of consciousness.
Clay Pham is most notable work is the documentary ‘When Mother is Away’, which tells the story of the then-imprisoned Vietnamese blogger Mother Mushroom, and the impact this had on her family. The documentary gained international attention and was screened across the world, raising awareness of the restrictions of freedom of expression in Vietnam.
Because of the nature of his work, addressing socio-political issues, and his association with Mother Mushroom, Pham faced interrogations, harassment, surveillance, and arrest. As a result, Clay Pham fled to Thailand in 2018, where he continued his work discreetly, documenting the condition of immigrants and refugees living in limbo.