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Movie industry struggle to make historical films
VietNamNet Bridge – The Vietnamese movie industry faced a lack of resources and money to make historical movies, cinema researchers and filmmakers told a conference on Tuesday in Ha Noi. A scene from the film Tay Son Hao Kiet (Heroes of the Tay Son Dynasty). Made to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Ha Noi, it is regarded as one of Viet Nam's most successful historical movies. The conference was organised by the Viet Nam Cinema Association to seek opinions from experts on the difficulties in making historical movies. "I hope we can make good historical movies in the future," said association deputy president Hong Ngat. "Vietnamese cinemas and televisions have been invaded by South Korean and Chinese movies," she said. Most historical movies that Vietnamese audiences had watched were produced by directors and studios from the US, China and South Korea. Many people now claimed that Vietnamese audiences understood China's history better than Viet Nam's history because they had seen so many Chinese films. Vietnamese youngsters may be more familiar with South Korea's Dae Jang Geum than with Viet Nam's Queen Le Ngoc Han. Many people believe that historical movies made by Chinese and South Korean filmmakers were very realistic and the actors performed well. And they wondered why Viet Nam, a country that had spent the better part of thousands of years defending itself from powerful foreign armies, could not create several historical films of merit? According to Tran Luan Kim, president of the association, while the country had not been able to make diverse historical movies, only a few of the films that were made attracted audiences. The year 1971 marked the first time a domestic historical film was made, featuring the image of young hero Tran Quoc Toan. Almost two decades after, some other films were created, including Dem Hoi Long Tri (Long Tri Festive Night), Lua Chay Thanh Dai La (Fire Burns Dai La Citadel), and Pham Cong-Cuc Hoa. Recently, some new films were made featuring the contemporary history of Viet Nam, including Nguyen Ai Quoc o Hong Kong (Nguyen Ai Quoc in Hong Kong), Ha Noi Mua Dong nam 1946 (Ha Noi winter in 1946), Khat Vong Thang Long (Thang Long Aspiration), and Thien Menh Anh Hung (A Blood Letter). This latter will take part in the second International Film Festival to be held in Ha Noi at the end of this month. Besides successful films, some of the movies were reproached for having too many Chinese elements in the film. The costumes and scenes did not accurately reflect Vietnamese culture from the historical era. Some other films were reproached for not being faithful to the history and for inventing stories to attract audiences. There were many reasons for the lack of Vietnamese historical movies. A simple explanation would be that the film industry lacked the funds to make such a film, but according to some experts, money was just a small part of the many problems that plagued the film industry. Ngo Phuong Lan, head of a cinema department, said Vietnamese filmmakers found it difficult to film when the country had few old objects that could help narrate the history. According to director Dao Ba Son, editors, directors and designers were crucial to the process. "Not every well-known screenwriter can create a script for an historical film. The writers needed to have researched the era thoroughly," said Son. "We still do not have talent in this field. Human resources are vital and the Vietnamese film industry is lacking in this area." According to Son, the lack of qualified studios, professional props, costumes and weapons had had a negative impact on historical films. While so many difficulties were still ahead, it may still take a long time for cinema experts and filmmakers in the country to find ways to make better historical movies.
Local films lost in translation
VietNamNet Bridge – As a film fan I have always loved going to the cinema to enjoy the big-screen experience. During a year I spent living in Hue, where there is no movie theatre, this was one of the few things I sorely missed. One by one the new film releases I wanted to see came and went, and I missed the cinematic experience that TV or DVD just can't quite match. I have since made up for lost time after recently moving to Ha Noi, where I am spoilt for choice with the number of cinemas on offer. Last weekend I went to see Skyfall, the latest in the James Bond franchise. A new Bond film was always something of an event when growing up in England, and I was delighted to get the chance to see it here. While me and my friends were waiting for the screening, I started looking at the posters and video screens trailing new releases. A film called Scandal caught my eye. From the accompanying trailer it looked like well-made Vietnamese take on the thriller genre. I asked my friend about it and he said he had seen and enjoyed it, but I would not be able to go as no subtitles were provided. It dawned on me that I had seen very few Vietnamese films during my time in the country. Living in Hue this was not so surprising, but some quick research revealed that across the country there are very few new domestic releases every year, and most do not come with English subtitles. Cinemas predominantly show American films with Vietnamese subtitles. I can't help but think this is a shame, as cinema is perhaps the most accessible medium for non-fluent Vietnamese speakers to learn something about the country and its people. One of the things I have tried to do in the two years I have spent in Viet Nam is to embrace the culture as much as possible. I have listened to Vietnamese music (Trinh Cong Son being a particular favourite), read Vietnamese folk tales (translated into English, luckily), watched traditional Vietnamese dance and been to Vietnamese art exhibitions. I decided it was about time to put right my lack of local film knowledge, and so I asked some Vietnamese friends for their recommendations. Of their choices, I did manage to track down a number that were released a while ago and have since been provided with English subtitles. I began my film marathon not knowing quite what to expect. What I found left me extremely impressed. In all the films I saw the production values are high, the writing is good and the acting is strong and believable (something I think is somewhat lacking in the Vietnamese TV dramas I have seen). Over the course of the week I have enjoyed Tran Anh Hung's impressive Viet Nam-set trilogy, The Scent of Green Papaya (an exotic and beautifully shot story of childhood), Cyclo (a gritty but artistic depiction of Viet Nam's underworld) and The Vertical Ray of the Sun (a subtle family saga). I followed this with Luu Huynh's The Girl in the White Silk Dress – one of the most expensive Vietnamese films ever made – which is a haunting and symbolic take on the role of women during French colonial rule, and Tony Bui's Three Seasons (co-starring Harvey Keitel), a thought-provoking look of Viet Nam as it modernises. Finally I watched Charlie Nguyen's The Rebel – a film that action fans will undoubtedly enjoy – a martial arts epic (and rather revisionist take on the end of French colonialism) where the fight scenes easily rival any Hollywood release. These films were all directed by oversea Vietnamese who received filmmaking training in America and Europe, and have been heavily influenced by the filmmaking styles of these regions. While I really enjoyed these films and appreciated their unique and interesting insights, I would like to be able to see more films made by Viet Nam-based filmmakers. They have stories to tell as well, and need to find a voice. Obviously, the movie industry is a largely money-oriented business all across the world. It is clear that the international market for Vietnamese produced films is very small. There is probably little financial incentive for time and money to be spent inserting English subtitles and spending advertising money to attract a more international audience for these releases. However, as a way of making Vietnamese culture that little bit more accessible, I think it would be a worthwhile endeavour, and would attract a small but dedicated audience. Foreign language films are growing in popularity, and while many lazy viewers still get put off by subtitles and would rather wait for an English language remake (where what made the original so special is almost always lost in translation), there are still plenty left who embrace the chance to enjoy them. I am sure that these films can tell a lot about Viet Nam's past, present and future. Cinema has the power to transcend cultural barriers and share stories, and it is a shame that currently it is difficult for interested foreigners to enjoy these films due to a simple lack of subtitles. So, while I will always be excited by a new Bond film and will continue to enjoy new Hollywood blockbusters while I am here, it would be nice every so often to go to the cinema for something with a little more local flavour.
The fourth International Circus festival attracts 11 international circus
The 4th International Circus Festival held by the Performing Arts Department (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) in collaboration with the Vietnam Circus Federation has attracted 11 international circus troupes and will take place at the Central Circus in Hanoi from November 15-21. Vietnam will participate and host the event, which will also feature dozens of circuses from Russia, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Spain, China, and the US… The “Power of the Arms” performance by the two brothers Giang Quoc Co and Giang Quoc Nghiep won the gold prize at the 3rd International Circus Festival in Hanoi (Source: The Festival aims at promoting the cooperation in art and culture between Vietnam and other nations in the world. It also creates a chance for Vietnam to showcase its culture to the world as well as learn management skills and the cultural initiatives of other countries. The International Circus Festival consists of typical big top artists and thrilling main event acts of high achievement and skill. The meritorious artist Vu Ngoan Hop – the director of the Vietnam Circus Federation said 30 thrilling circus acts will be showcased at this Festival. Though two rounds of contests, the organizing board will select the 10 most outstanding acts to perform on the gala night of November 21. “The Festival of international acts scheduled to perform contain a wide variety of entertainment. It also marks the first participation of many other countries such as Greece, Hungary…Especially, the Vietnam Circus Delegation is preparing to introduce their best circus act which has never before been seen”, he added./.
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