The first Vietnamese movie to compete for the Golden Bear, the highest prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, tells the stories of two men and a woman living in Ho Chi Minh City in the late nineties.
Indie director Phan Dang Di's directorial debut Bi, Dung So (Don’t Be Afraid, Bi) won two Critics Week awards at Cannes in 2010.
His latest film was inspired by a local newspaper story he read around 20 years ago, about young men seeking vasectomies. Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories is based on that true story and the romantic lives of young people in Saigon, a city burning with vigor at the time,” Di said.
A post on the official website of the ten-day festival that ends February 15 described the movie as “a magical love story set against a backdrop of taboo homosexuality and a society in turmoil.”
In the movie, Vu leaves his village in the Mekong Delta for HCMC to study photography and falls in love with his flat-mate, Thang, a young man who mingles comfortably with Saigon's drug dealers, gamblers and sex workers.
One of the film's producers, Do Thi Hai Yen, stars in a leading female role as a nightclub dancer named Van.
The movie, financed by the World Cinema Fund, has already been screened at film festivals in Hong Kong and Paris.
For the love of movies
Di said his movie took five years to make and only cost US$300,000, but he had a lot of trouble raising the money.
"A film industry is only interesting when it makes space for a lot of different voices speaking together" -- Director Phan Dang Di
“That made me realize that it’s very hard to find money to make indie movies like this," he said. “If it's hard for a director who has seen some success like me, it must be extremely difficult for those who are just starting out."
He said new directors need more support from fans, sponsors and ideally, a fund established by the government.
Without that support, he said, Vietnam won’t be able to introduce new faces to the movie world, he said.
“It will be boring to keep seeing the same handful of familiar faces. A film industry is only interesting when it makes space for a lot of different voices speaking together.”