Culture Vulture (27-03-2013)
During the past decade, the Vietnamese movie industry has witnessed considerable development with many private studios opening and audiences enjoying a more diverse range of films. But how has this contributed to the growth of the Vietnamese cinema which marked its 60th anniversary recently?
Ngo Phuong Lan, director of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Cinematography Department, spoke about the 60-year journey of Vietnamese cinema and its global integration.
You said that filmmakers should develop a diversified movie industry. What is a diversified movie industry? Why do we need it?
I think it is necessary to develop the movie industry in this way because Vietnamese audience are huge, diverse and of different ages. I want to stress that filmmakers who make movies that are purely for entertainment should improve their professional skills and create more valuable films with a message to their audiences.
Films made just for entertainment easily win the hearts of young audiences in the 16-25 age group and sell many cinema tickets. They hold a large market share.
How can these films contribute to the development of the national cinema with a Vietnamese cultural identity if these movies aim to satisfy audiences’ casual tastes?
Different types of films should focus on Vietnamese culture in the new era, with a vision that’s confident and of full of national pride.
The movie industry should produce mainstream movies that reflect Vietnamese cultural identity if filmmakers want to stand out at international film festivals.
Many Vietnamese audiences still remember the past glory days of Vietnamese cinema when we had movies that were recognised at international festivals. Most of them were made in very difficult circumstances during a time of war.
Why do we fall short in regards to films that are ideologically valuable in recent years?
In past years, veteran filmmakers devoted their lives to cinema. They made movies with all their talent and passion and never thought about other purposes.
In other words, the State ensured good conditions for filmmakers to make one or two movies each year. Filmmakers never worried about film distribution and screenings.
Since the country began its renewal progress, the movie industry is no longer fully State subsidised. It is very hard to find a way to develop the industry while also meeting the demands of modern society.
Society has also changed with time. In the past, cinema used to be the top priority because of its strong impact on society. Now audiences have many other choices for entertainment.
Additionally, technological development has also helped audiences benefit from easy access to top movies from around the world on the internet. It is a real challenge for the Vietnamese movie industry.
Can we blame globalisation and a changing society?
As Viet Nam is a member of the World Trade Organisation, the movie industry is one of sectors that have no import quotas. It means that there is no limit on imported movies and at the same time distribution and production of local movies face numerous difficulties.
The State has limited its investment in movie production. As a result, there were no movies produced last year.
In your opinion, what makes revolutionary cinema successful?
In fact, not many filmmakers make movies like classic Vietnamese films. This is because these classic films always revolved around the contrast between black and white or good and evil. This is the source of success for revolutionary cinema.
Later, the filmmakers of these classics themselves changed the way they made their movies.
Recently, we had a few movies that were highly poetic such as Thuong Nho Dong Que (Nostalgia for the Countryside); Thung Lung Hoang Vang (Deserted Valley) and Luoi Dao (The Knife’s Edge).
The movie industry has experienced a period in which social realism was the major focus of movies. However, I think human values are the most important thing that the filmmakers should spotlight in their works, in particular in movies funded by the State. That is our goal. — VNS