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The 2009 Golden Kite Award Ceremony was a letdown in more ways than one

Director Nguyen Trong Khoa (L) of 14 ngay phep (14 days off) and actress Minh Huong of Dung dot (Don't burn) receive their prizes at the 2009 Golden Kite Awards. The ceremony has drawn criticism for failing to recognize films with real artistic and creative merit.

On March 14, the series of disappointments began with director Dang Nhat Minh Dung dot (Don't burn) which, as predicted, won the prestigious Best Feature Film award.

Dung dot, which depicts the true life story of a Vietnamese female doctor named Dang Thuy Tram during the Vietnam War as expressed through her recently found diary, was also honored with the Golden Lotus Award at the 16th Vietnam Film Festival last December.

There are several moving scenes in the film, but the depiction of the conditions in which she lived and worked was poor, perhaps because of the film's small budget.


- Best Actor: Trinh Hoi for 14 ngay phep (14 days off)

- Best Actress: Minh Huong for Dung dot (Don't burn)

- The movie Dung dotwon six awards for the Best Celluloid Feature Film, Best Sound Effect, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Decor, Viewers' Choice and Best Director

- Best Supporting Actor: Thai Hoa for 14 ngay phep (14 days off)

- Best Supporting Actress: Linh Dung for Choi voi (Adrift)

Dung dot is yet another war film by Dang Nhat Minh, whose Bao gio cho den thang 10 (When October comes) was named among the 18 all-time best Asian films by CNN in 2008. So most people agreed that the Best Film title, together with other prizes for the film, had to be a given for the jury.

Unceasing "surprises" were served to the audience at the event when 14 ngay phep (14 days off) by director Nguyen Trong Khoa was picked for the Silver Kite Award instead of Choi voi (Adrift) or Bay rong (Clash), which had something new to offer the Vietnamese audience.

14 ngay phep tells the story of a Vietnamese expatriate who spends a two-week vacation in his home country, which is vastly different from what he remembered.

Though the film initially drew criticism for its "boring" story and the so-so performance of the leading male actor, Trinh Hoi, its victories included the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Thai Hoa), and Best Scriptwriter (Nguyen Trong Khoa) awards.

Choi voi deals with the tough issues that Vietnamese are grappling with. It tells the tale of a young woman with an adventurous spirit trying to do the best to have a "normal" life even as she confronts her inner demons her volatile emotions and new sexual orientations. The film has been appreciated for its unique presentation style and won appreciation from abroad for its artistic values, but it was not a hit among local movie-lovers.

Choi voi was introduced at some international film festivals and won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.

Director Le Thanh Son's Bay rong is an interesting movie with action scenes that are rare in the local movie industry, and the performances of stars Johnny Tri Nguyen and Ngo Thanh Van have gained widespread approbation.

According to the film's producer-actor Johnny Tri Nguyen, Bay rong's revenue last January was about VND20 billion (US$1.14 million).

However, Choi voi and Bay rong could only share consolation prizes at the Golden Kite Awards ceremony.

Local media have expressed their disappointment through articles, that say the awards failed to honor and encourage the creativity and originality of artists.

Thanh Nien newspaper on March 15 said: "The Vietnamese Cinema Association (VCA) has apparently not yet applied their standards the stress on professionalism and the social impact of the movie in judging the films.

VietNamNet exclaimed on their website: "Surprised, Disappointed from A to Z."

Struggling for fame

At present, Vietnam has two major movie awards, the annual Golden Kite Awards of VCA and Golden Lotus Awards of the Vietnamese Film Festival jointly organized by the Cinema Department and the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism every two or three years.

Recently, to draw attention of the public, organizers have presented the events in an Oscar format with live broadcasts, red carpets and well-dressed stars.

These efforts, however, haven't borne much fruit, since the number of films competing at the awards is too small. The 2009 Golden Kite Awards, for instance, attracted just eight films.

Furthermore, several nominees themselves have been unable to attract audiences to come to the cinema.

On the one hand, most of Vietnam's private film producers, whose blockbusters are aimed for release during the Tet holiday, are not interested in the award, but are focused solely on profits.

On the other hand, prizes are seldom given to these such films, except for this year's Cong chua teen va ngu ho tuong (Teenage girl and five bodyguards) produced by the Phuoc Sang Film Company which collected the Best New Actress award for singer Bao Thy.

The bottom line: the artists and media are the only audience at these movie awards.

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