On the evening of June 25, Vu Lam stepped into the empty lobby of the Van Do apartments in District 4.
On the way up to her 11th floor apartment, the aspiring young actress felt a tap on her shoulder and spun around. Before she could identify the man standing behind her, she says, a fist cracked her below the left eye. She fell to the floor.
"Will you stop this?" the assailant asked.
Two days earlier, Lam had gone to authorities and Thanh Nien with a big scandal.
Lam revealed that she had paid VND200 million (US$10,500) to director Thanh Quynh in a deal to buy a big award in the 2010 Promising Movie Star Contest. Despite the large payoff, she said, her scheme failed. All that money had netted her a trio of minor titles.
After coming home with a black eye, Lam says her family urged her to go back to Thanh Nien and report the assault.
"At first, I was afraid. But I raise my voice against this bad deed. Now I'm protected by my folks and living in a safer house" said Lam. "I lodged a complaint with the HCMC Cinema Association and appropriate authorities to bring this to light. It was such a valuable lesson for me and others," said Lam.
The brightest star
The contest, hosted by the Sieu Nhan Viet (Viet Superman) Company in conjunction with HCMC's Dien Anh (Cinematography) Magazine, ended two months ago. The fallout, however, is just beginning.
Quynh, who is both the contest's director and president of Viet Superman Co., has admitted to accepting payments from Lam. He denies promising her anything. However, Lam provided tape recordings of Quynh to Thanh Nien that would indicate otherwise.
During her exclusive interview with Thanh Nien this is what she said:
"On March 25, the day of the semifinal round, I met with [Thanh Quynh] and Phi Ngoc Anh (who later became the first runner-up). [Quynh] told me that I could be the winner if I paid him VND200 million. I accepted his offer and transferred half the money to him that afternoon. He then arranged for me to attend the semifinal round without preparation and listed me as a finalist
Actress Vu Lam was allegedly assaulted after involving herself in a bribery scandal with the 2010 Promising Movie Star Contest director Thanh Quynh
One week later, [Quynh] asked for the rest of the money. I paid him VND80 million. He refused to write a receipt. On the big day, he broke his promise to me. I received a lesser award. I was angry and contacted him many times. It seemed like he was trying to avoid me."
In an interview with Thanh Nien, Quynh confirmed that he received VND180 million from Lam. But he described the payment as "the "˜contestant training' fee for costumes, instructors, make-up and performance preparation."
Lam's "training fee" seems particularly exorbitant considering Lam appeared in a single five-minute scene.
"I did not promise to give her any title," Quynh told Thanh Nien. "I don't have that power."
Quynh claims that he agreed to help train Lam so that she would be eligible for a prize in the final round. "There is no quid pro quo here," he added.
Although Quynh denies nearly every accusation, Lam's tape recordings contain a promise:
"With all that money I will help Lam to pursue the contest to the end and win one out of the five major awards," says the voice on the recording.
During his interview with Thanh Nien, the director expressed concern over a series of threatening text messages sent to him by Lam. He believes he is collecting enough evidence to take legal proceedings.
Quynh claimed that he only earned VND150 million from the deal. He has alleged that he paid VND30 million to a middle-woman, first runner-up Phi Ngoc Anh. Anh decided to talk with Thanh Nien to protest her innocence.
"Lam is my friend," Anh began. "I have received many reproachful phone calls from my friends and family [since the scandal started]"” particularly my mom. I have not received so much as a penny from Quynh. This accusation has caused me a lot of anguish. It even cost me my role in the film Tinh noi hoang da (Love in the wild)."
The greenhorn actress also claimed that she has voice clips of Quynh "teaching" her how to lie. She has yet to produce the recordings for Thanh Nien.
Anh confirmed that she took Lam to meet Quynh when Lam said she wanted to attend the contest. "Then I knew nothing more," she said. Anh insists that she did not benefit from the introduction. "I'm just telling the truth," she added.
According to the tape that Lam gave to Thanh Nien, Anh was in fact aware of the arrangement. Exactly what Anh knew remains unclear.
The Internet is abuzz with fans clamoring for resolution.
A LESSON LEARNT
|Talking to Thanh Nien, Pham Thuy Nhan, a member of the HCMC Cinema Association Executive Board, admitted that this problem had come about due to his carelessness.
"The contest did not break any rules. However, I did not pay enough attention to everything and delegated tasks to director Thanh Quynh. I was also absent on the final night in Binh Duong province. I am really saddened by all the troubles. Whether the accusations are true or not, they have had a negative impact on the association. This has been a huge lesson for us.
Nhan also announced that the urban Cinema Association will not hold the Ngoi sao dien anh trien vong Contest again.
"There will be only one official contest, Ngoi sao ngay mai (Future Star), that will look for young talent for the cinema" said Nhan.
Meeting with the association on June 29, Vu Lam also addressed the problem. Lam told the association that she would pursue her accusations to the end.