The cast and crew of Than Tuong (Idol) receive the Golden Kite for Best Feature Film at the awards function in Hanoi on March 15. Photo: Thuy Hang
The subdued colors this year, the picking of worthy films to honor, and the general low-key nature of the 2013 Canh Dieu Vang (Golden Kite) Awards are excellent signs.
With a small but solid party that was not broadcast live on VTV unlike in past years, the Vietnam Cinematography Association seemed to be trying to carve out a proper place for its annual award, jettisoning all the hype and expectations surrounding it, which, given the current quality of Vietnamese movies, are unjustified.
Many people dub this award the ‘Vietnamese Cannes’ but that is hardly true. Even in future, when the local cinema industry is better developed and the award gains more prestige, it might resemble the US’s Golden Globe more rather than the French festival, because of its smaller scale compared to the Vietnam Film Festival.
Organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism every two or three years, the latter event is much older, more prestigious, and attracts more films and may be called the Vietnamese Oscars or Cannes.
At a press conference before the award function on Saturday, the association’s chairman, People’s Artist Dang Xuan Hai, wisely cautioned people against having unfounded expectations about the award, which is no more important than any other annual, internal award given by the other associations under the Vietnam Union of Literature and Arts Associations.
It receives the same level of funding from the state. Hai said that just because cinema is more popular than other mediums, the association has invested more care in this award.
Back to this year’s red carpet, which, aptly, was not too red, long, or new. It must be a much-used one at the Vietnam-Soviet Union Friendship Culture Palace in Hanoi where the awards ceremony took place. But despite its brownish stains, it led to some well-deserved prizes.
The most important – the 2013 Golden Kite for best feature – went to director Nguyen Quang Huy’s Than tuong (literally, Idol), a decent commercial movie about idealistic, talented, young people trying to find their place in the competitive, money-driven show business.
This film also bagged four other important awards in the feature film category: best director, best cinematography, best art direction, and best supporting actor. It also got the press/critics award for best feature film.
At last week’s function, there were two interesting signs that suggest a new trend in Vietnamese cinema. One was the absence of a 2013 Golden Kite for best feature film script. At the same time, the 2013 Golden Kite for works of research, theory, and criticism in cinema went to veteran screenwriter Doan Minh Tuan’s book, Huong dan viet kich ban phim (How to write movie scripts), published by the Hanoi University of Theater and Cinema.
Tuan, who teaches at the university, is someone who always laments the lack of good scripting in the country. His award and the generally poor scripts of this year’s feature films brought this particular problem in focus.
The other interesting thing was the introduction of a lengthily-named, brand-new prize: the Special Award of the Vietnam Cinematography Association for Best Feature Film about Revolutionary War. It went to director Bui Tuan Dung’s Nhung nguoi viet huyen thoai (The Legend Makers), the only war movie and one of only two government-funded movies in a list of 13 competing for the awards.
A scene of Nhung nguoi viet huyen thoai (The Legend Makers) directed by Bui Tien Dung. The film wins Special Award of the Vietnam Cinematography Association for Best Feature Film about Revolutionary War. Photo provided by the film makers
Many may laugh at this new prize, but not people who sincerely care about local cinema, because this is a really good sign.
It suggests the association is well aware that the old way of making movies no longer suffices, though there may be another reason: simply because Nhung nguoi viet huyen thoai already won last year’s Vietnam Film Festival’s Golden Lotus for best feature, the association wanted to encourage other films and had to come up with a new prize just for this occasion without slighting this movie and the whole tradition and apparatus that produce such a movie.
This would not be surprising since the 2013 Golden Kite has a reputation of adding and scrapping categories off and on.
But if this new award is here to stay, and it should, the association has made the right move. Movies about the wars which win government funding but do not speak to new generations of audiences and which are not very good technically should make way for other movies.
Nhung nguoi viet huyen thoai’s script is bad, though it shared the 2013 Golden Kite for best art direction with Than tuong and best music with Duong dua (The Race), and won for best sound.
The addition of this new award is an honorable gesture to honor the past and encourage the present. For a long time government-funded war movies have been the foundation and pride of Vietnamese cinema. But it is time to find other sources of funding to make other kinds of films.
Ever since the Bureau of Cinematography lost VND42 billion (some US$2 million) due to fraud by an accountant in 2011, the government has refrained from funding movies anyway.
The 2013 Golden Kite Awards were also given in the categories of animation, scientific films, documentaries, short films, and TV drama.
2013 GOLDEN KITE AWARDS
The following is a partial list of the Canh Dieu Vang (Golden Kite) Awards in some categories. The other categories (documentaries and short films) only have the Silver Prize and Certificate of Merit.
I. Feature Films
1. Best feature: “Than tuong”
Director: Nguyen Quang Huy
Producer: WePro Joint Stock Company
2. Best script: n/a
3. Best director: Nguyen Quang Huy (“Than tuong”)
4. Best cinematography: Trang Cong Minh (“Than tuong”)
5. Best art direction: Ngo Phuoc Truong (“Than tuong”), Nguyen Nguyen Vu (“Nhung nguoi viet huyen thoai”)
6. Best music: Nguyen Manh Duy Linh (“Duong dua”), Hoang Luong (“Nhung nguoi viet huyen thoai”)
7. Best sound: Banh Bac Hai (“Nhung nguoi viet huyen thoai”)
8. Best supporting actor: Ngo Kien Huy (as Nguyen-coffee in “Than tuong”)
9. Best supporting actress: Thuy Linh (as Trang Ly in “Va anh se tro lai”)
10. Best leading actor: Thai Hoa (as Teo em in “Teo em”)
11. Best leading actress: Kathy Uyen (as Anne/Thai An, in “Am muu giay got nhon”)
II. Press/Critics Award for Best Feature Film
III. Special Award of Vietnam Cinematography Association for Best Feature Film about Revolutionary War
“Nhung nguoi viet huyen thoai”
Director: Bui Tuan Dung
Producer: Vietnam Feature Film Studio
IV. Work of Research, Theory, and Criticism in Cinema
“Huong dan viet kich ban phim”
Author: Doan Minh Tuan
Publisher: Hanoi University of Theater and Cinema
V. Animation Films
“Dan seu co tro ve”
Director: Dao Minh Uyen
Producer: Giai Phong Film Studio
*Dao Minh Uyen also won Best Director of Animation Film
VI. Scientific Films
“Chuyen cua da”
Director: Nguyen Tai Van
Producer: Science and Education Department, Vietnam Television (VTV)
*Nguyen Tai Van was also won Best Director of Scientific Film
VII. TV Drama
1. Best TV drama: “Thuyen giay”
Director: Nham Minh Hien
Producer: M&T Pictures
2. Best director: Nham Minh Hien
3. Best scriptwriter: Pham Thuy Nhan (“Binh Tay Dai nguyen soai”)
4. Best actor: Quang Tuan (as Binh, in “Thuyen giay”)
5. Best actress: Ngoc Lan (as Huong Thao, in “Thuyen giay”)
6. Promising Actor/Actress: Tien Loc (as teacher Minh, in “Cham tay vao noi nho”), and Nguyen Thanh Van (as Tue, in “Hoa no trai mua”)