Int'l fest marks a coming of age for Vietnamese cinema: Philip Noyce

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The first Vietnam International Film Festival occurred as the country prepares for a new future for its cinema industry, Australian director Philip Noyce said in an interview on the sidelines of the festival-opening Sunday night.

The festival "shows that Vietnam is looking out and that's an important part of cinema vision, looking out to the world, inviting filmmakers to come and show their films here, as well as providing a showcase for Vietnamese cinemas," said the director of the award-winning "The Quiet American" (2002), an adaptation of the famous Graham Green novel set during the Vietnam War.

Noyce heads the festival jury for the feature films category which has ten contestants: "Big Boy" from Thailand, "Sand Castle" from Singapore, "Breakup Club" from Hong Kong, "Lao Wai" from China, "Ice Kacang Puppy Love" from Malaysia, "The Dreamer" from Indonesia, "The Red Shoes" from the Philippines, Hanamizuki from Japan and two Vietnamese films Long Thanh cam gia ca (Song about a person who twangs in Thang Long) and Trung uy (Lieutenant).

The director said he attends film festivals "out of curiosity and in the hope that we'll discover something, a filmmaker, a vision which otherwise we would never be able to find in our normal lives.

"So coming to the film festival is like a search for inspiration, for your heart and for your mind."

About this festival, he said, "We're looking as a jury to find some filmmaker that can really benefit from the given award."

Noyce said he had noted big improvements in Vietnam's cinema industry.


Vietnam's famous actresses Ngo Thanh Van (L) and Tang Thanh Ha (R) wave to the audience from the red carpet

Vietnamese and Asian celebrities walked the red carpet at the National Conference Center last night as the first Vietnam International Film Festival closed. (This paper went to press before the closing ceremony.)

The festival did not attract the same participation as similar festivals in other countries, but the panel included star judges like Marco Muller, director of the Venice Film Festival, French cameraman Francois Catonne and South Korean actress Kang Su Yeon.

Sixty-seven movies, including features, short films and documentaries, were screened during the five-day festival at the National Screening Center, Megastar cinemas and Platinum Cineplex at My Dinh Stadium.

Many of them were not in contention for the festival's eight awards.

All submissions to the festival were required to have been produced in 2009 and 2010 and had never been featured abroad earlier.

The festival was organized by the Cinema Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and BHD (Vietnam Media Corp.). It sought to promote Asian movies, especially from Southeast Asia, and boost cooperation between movie industries from different countries.

Australian Hollywood director Philip Noyce walks the red carpet with his wife and son on the opening night of the first Vietnam International Film Festival in Hanoi on Sunday

"Eight years ago when I was here for the premiere of "The Quiet American", there were a number of Vietnamese films being made but it was very difficult for them to find an audience because there was no distribution across Vietnam.

"(Now) I see that there are multiplex cinemas here in Vietnam. Of course most of them are showing Hong Kong and American films but the good news for Vietnamese cinemas is that these cinemas are now operating and Vietnamese audiences are coming and paying to see movies."

"The future is open now," said Noyce, who cut the ribbon to inaugurate the festival at the National Screening Center in Hanoi.

"The way forward is there for Vietnamese cinemas to take over these screens from the American, from the Hong Kong films," he said.

Having spent more than 30 years making films, Noyce advised Vietnamese filmmakers not to choose a topic that they wouldn't want to see themselves because "you're bound to fail."

"Don't choose a topic that they think other people will enjoy but rather a topic which they're passionate about. Because that passion will bring others, bring the audience," he said.

Noyce said Vietnam's cinema industry is in a "delicate" position. "You're pregnant and you're about to give birth to a bright future."

The country has young population, "strong artistic ideals" and many people trained in the Soviet Union, which was the beginning of a great storytelling tradition, he said.

"It's up to the filmmakers to find the Vietnamese audience and take advantage of all these things together."

During a conference between local and foreign filmmakers on Tuesday as part of the festival, Do Duy Anh of the Cinema Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Vietnam was becoming an attractive filmmaking destination with 29 state-run filmstudios and 30 private ones. The number of films co-produced with foreign partners has increased since 2004, he said.

Anh said one convenience for foreign filmmakers in Vietnam would be that they have to pay very little tax and could also benefit from simplified administrative procedures.

Director Phuoc Sang said it would be cheaper to make films in Vietnam. Sang said he co-produced a horror film with South Korean partners and they said it would cost US$5-10 million to make the film in Korea, while it cost only $1 million in Vietnam.

But both local and foreign filmmakers said they had problems with the shortage of film sets in Vietnam.

Director Noyce said he planned to stay in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for a few days after the festival, which ended Thursday night, to conduct short training courses for Vietnamese filmmakers.

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