Of the 47 teams that participated in a frantic competition to write, film and edit short films in 48 hours flat, French director Thibaud Taillant's Cyclo cua em (My own cyclo) came out trumps with six awards.
The seven-minute film won prizes for best editing, best actress, best cinematography, and best choreography, as well as the audience award.
The 48-Hour Film Project a contest to make a movie in a 48- hour mad rush was launched in Washington DC in 2001, and is now run in 85 cities across the world. This is the first time the program was held in Vietnam.
Director Taillant has been working for four years in Vietnam. "I wanted my film to tell a story about the tenuous struggle to preserve traditions in urban Saigon. I also wanted to depict the resilience of Vietnamese women," he said. "In the old days, a lot of women used to travel in cyclos but with the emergence of the motorbike culture, the cyclo is slowly fading out of public consciousness."
Cyclo cua em weaves together images from Saigon's past and present. An old cyclo driver takes a girl to school every day. He dreams of the girl falling in love with his son. One day, when the old man falls sick, his son takes the girl to school.
This is where the film takes an unexpected twist. Out of the blue, an angry and violent foreigner, whose motorbike had broken down, robs the young man of his cyclo.
The schoolgirl chases the thief, knocks down him and two other foreigners kung-fu style, and returns the cyclo back to the young man.
in the first 48-hour film project in Vietnam
* Best film: A good day to die by Young Media
* Runner up for best film: Cyclo cua em (My own cyclo) by Wendigo/Echo
* Jury prize: The river by Yeti
* Best 48 second trailer: The river by Yeti
* Best director: Nguyen Thanh Binh (Once again by 57 Bananas)
* Best actor: Vu Hai Hoc (Once again by 57 Bananas)
* Best actress: Trinh Thi Thien (Cyclo cua em)
* Best actor under 18: Thomas Schmitt (Same same... but differentby Idle Nation)
* Best actress under 18: Kate Webster (The hunt begins by The Thespians)
* Best musical score: The one by Rié Furuse (Postcards from heaven by Ev.olve)
* Best editing: Thibaud Taillant (Cyclo cua em)
* Best cinematography: Pier Lorenza (Cyclo cua em)
* Best scriptwriting: Phan Vu Hoang An (A good day to die by Young Media)
* Best use of character: Pham Minh An (Once again by 57 Bananas)
* Best film in a foreign language: Where are they now? by Uncles Inc.
"The film does not have much dialogue but the background score, cinematography, and acting are par excellence," said Le Thu Thuy who voted for Cyclo cua em. "The film's unexpected twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat, and the great performances moved me to tears."
German photographer Morgan Ommer, who was in the audience, said, "(The filmmakers) integrate the images of Vietnam - burning incense, "˜same same but different,' and cyclos - to tell a real story. I was impressed with the fighting scenes too."
The director, Taillant, said he had a great time working with his team. "Often one sees a lot of overacting in Vietnamese cinema. But the acting is very natural and refreshing in this film."
Most of the film was shot on Hai Ba Trung Str0eet. "The public was very curious during the shoot. We had a few funny moments when the French actor kicked his motorbike violently. People actually thought he was furious, and not just acting. Another time, the actors were unable to stop the cyclo and it rolled down the street, giving people quite a scare."
Trinh Thi Thien, who plays the part of the schoolgirl, won the best actress award at the awards ceremony held December 16 at the Opera House.
Thien says she had great fun shooting the kung-fu fight scenes since she is a martial arts instructor by profession. "At first, it was difficult to understand the ideas Taillant wanted to project in the film. But the tight deadlines pushed us all to our limits and forced us to perform," she said.
Thien said it was easy to be herself in the film because she could identify with the character. "Shooting the fight scene was very tiring. Luckily, all the actors in the team were good martial artists, so we could shoot it within two hours," she said.
According to Taillant, there are very few foreigners really making money in the Vietnamese film industry. Most foreign filmmakers supplement their income by working in the advertising, corporate or tourism industries.
Taillant said he had learned a lot from making this film, especially working with people from different backgrounds. "It was challenging to make a film in just 48 hours. I was very stressed and only got about three hours of sleep during the entire weekend we spent making Cyclo cua em."
With the success of Cyclo cua em, Taillant said he would start making more films for and about the Vietnamese people.