ⓘ Cinema of Vietnam

Cinema of Vietnam

ⓘ Cinema of Vietnam

The cinema of Vietnam originates in the 1920s and has largely been shaped by wars that have been fought in the country from the 1940s to the 1970s. The better known Vietnamese language-films include Cyclo, The Scent of Green Papaya and Vertical Ray of the Sun, all by French-trained Viet Kiều director Tran Anh Hung. In recent years, as Vietnams film industry has modernized and moved beyond government-backed propaganda films, contemporary Vietnamese filmmakers have gained a wider audience with films such as Buffalo Boy, Bar Girls and The White Silk Dress.


1.1. History Early films

In the 1920s, a group of Vietnamese intellectuals formed the Huong Ky Film Company in Hanoi. It produced documentaries on the funeral of Emperor Khải Dinh and the enthronement of Bảo Dai. There was also the silent feature, Mot dồng kẽm tau dưoc ngua A Penny for a Horse. The first sound films were produced from 1937 to 1940, with Tron với tình True to Love, Khuc khải hoàn The Song of Triumph and Toet so ma Toets Scared of Ghosts by the Asia Film Group studio in Hanoi with the participation of artist Tam Danh. The Vietnam Film Group, led by Trần Tấn Giàu produced Mot buổi chiều trên song Cửu Long An Evening on the Mekong River and Thầy Phap rau dỏ The Red-Bearded Sorcerer.

Two other films, Canh dồng ma The Ghost Field and Tran phong ba The Storm, were made in 1937 and 1938 in Hong Kong with Vietnamese actors and dialogue, but both were financial failures.

The governments Ministry of Information and Propaganda formed a film department around 1945 and documented battles in the First Indochina War in the documentaries Tran Moc Hoa Moc Hoa Battle in 1948, Tran Dong Khê Dong Khê Battle in 1950 Chiến thắng Tay Bắc North West Victory in 1952, Viet Nam trên dường thắng loi Viet Nam on the Road to Victory in 1953 and Dien Bien Phu 1954.


1.2. History The war years

With the end of the First Indochina War and the creation of North Vietnam and South Vietnam, there were two Vietnamese film industries, with the Hanoi industry focusing on documentary and drama films and Saigon on war or comedy films.

Hanois Vietnam Film Studio was established in 1956 and the Hanoi Film School opened in 1959. The first feature film produced in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam was a nationalistic work directed by Nguyễn Hồng Nghi, Chung mot giong song Together on the Same River. There was even an animated feature, Dang dời Thằng Cao A Just Punishment for the Fox in 1960.

Documentaries and feature films from Hanoi attracted attention at film festivals in Eastern Europe at the time. The documentary Nước về Bắc Hưng Hải Water Returns to Bắc Hưng Hải won the Golden Award at the 1959 Moscow Film Festival, and the 1963 feature by Pham Kỳ Nam, Chi Tư Hau Sister Tư Hau won the Silver Award at Moscow. It starred lead actress Trà Giang.

But mostly the Hanoi-based industry focused on documenting the Vietnam War. Between 1965 and 1973, 463 newsreels, 307 documentaries and 141 scientific films were produced, in contrast to just 36 feature films and 27 cartoons. Films during this period include the documentaries Du kich Củ Chi Củ Chi Guerillas in 1967 and Lũy thep Vĩnh Linh Vĩnh Linh Steel Rampart in 1970, which included footage from battles. Other films, such as Dường ra phia trước The Road to the Front in 1969 and Những người san thu trên nui Dak-sao Hunters on Dak-sao Mountain in 1971 were docudramas.

Feature films from this time include Nguyễn Van Trỗi 1966, Dường về quê me Road Back to Mother 1971, Truyen vo chồng Anh Luc The Story of Anh Luc and his Wife in 1971, and Em be Hà Noi Girl from Hanoi in 1975.

Saigon produced numerous documentary and public information films, as well as feature films. The most well known feature film of the late 1950s was Chung Toi Muốn Sống We Want To Live, a realistic depiction of the bloody land reform campaign in North Vietnam under Communist-dominated Vietminh. Some mid-1960s black-and-white features dealt with war themes, with actors such as Doàn Chau Mau and La Thoai Tan. Some later popular color features revolved around the theme of family or personal tragedy in a war-torn society, such as Người Tình Khong Chan Dung The Faceless Lover starring Kiều Chinh, Xa Lo Khong Den Dark Highway starring Thanh Nga, Chiếc Bong Bên Dường A Silhouette by the Road starring Kim Cương and Thành Dưoc. Comedy movies were usually released around Tết, the Vietnamese New Year; most notable was Trieu Phu Bất Dắc Dĩ The Reluctant Millionaire starring the well-loved comedian Thanh Viet.

Joseph Mankiewiczs adaptation of Graham Greenes The Quiet American was filmed in and around Saigon in 1957. American actor Marshall Thompson directed and starred in A Yank in Vietnam, or Year of the Tiger in 1964.


1.3. History Reunification

After Reunification of North Vietnam and South Vietnam, studios in the former South Vietnam turned to making Socialist Realism films. Vietnamese feature film output increased and by 1978 the number of feature films made each year was boosted from around three annually during the war years to 20.

Films from the years following the war focused on heroic efforts in the revolution, human suffering created by the war and social problems of post-war reconstruction. Films from this time include Mùa gio chướng Season of the Whirlwind in 1978 and Canh dồng hoang The Abandoned Field: Free Fire Zone in 1979.


1.4. History Contemporary cinema

The shift to a market economy in 1986 dealt a blow to Vietnamese filmmaking, which struggled to compete with video and television. The number of films produced in Vietnam has dropped off sharply since 1987.

Still, a number of filmmakers continued to produce film that would be seen on the arthouse circuit. These include Trần Van Thủys Hà Noi trong mắt ai? Hanoi Through Whose Eyes?, 1983 and Chuyen tử tế Story of Good Behavior, 1987 and Trần Anh Tràs Người cong giao huyen Thống Nhất A Catholic in Thống Nhất District, 1985, Trần Vũs Anh và em Siblings, 1986, Dang Nhat Minhs Bao gio cho den thang muoi When the Tenth Month Comes, 1984, Dang Nhat Minhs Co gai trên song Girl on the River, 1987, Nguyển Khắc Lois Tướng về hưu The Retired General and Dang Nhat Minhs Mùa ổi Guava Season, 2001.

Tony Buis Ba mùa Three Seasons, 1998 won prizes at the Sundance Film Festival in 1998. Trần Van Thủys Tiếng vĩ cầm ở Mỹ Lai The Sound of the Violin at My Lai won Best Short Film prize at the 43rd Asia Pacific Film Festival in 1999. Dời cat Sandy Life by Nguyễn Thanh won best picture at the same festival the following year. Bùi Thac Chuyêns Cuốc xe dêm Night Cyclo Trip won third prize in the short film category at the Cannes Film Festival in 2000.

Better known, however, are European productions in Vietnam, such as The Lover and Indochine, as well as films by Viet Kiều directors Tran Anh Hung and Tony Bui. Trans first feature, The Scent of the Green Papaya won the Golden Camera at the Cannes Film Festival in 1993 and was the first Vietnamese film nominated for an Oscar in 1994. His other films include Xich lo Cyclo, 1995 and Mùa he chiều thẳng dứng Vertical Ray of the Sun in 2000. Another European co-production, Mùa len trau The Buffalo Boy by Nguyễn Võ Nghiêm Minh, has won numerous awards at film festivals, including the Chicago International Film Festival in 2004.

In recent years, Vietnamese filmmakers have moved in more commercial directions to try and regain audiences lost to television and DVDs. One of the most successful films of recent years at the Vietnamese box office has been Phi Tiến Sơns Lưới trời Heavens Net, a film about corruption that closely mirrors the trial of Ho Chi Minh City gangster Nam Cam.

An even bigger film was 2002s Lê Hoàngs Gai nhay Bar Girls, which depicted Ho Chi Minh Citys titillating and seedy nightlife while also warning of the dangers of HIV and AIDS. Featuring the first government-approved topless scene, it spawned a sequel, Lo lem he phố Street Cinderella in 2004. Another film along these lines is Nữ tướng cướp Gangsta Girls. There are also comedy-romance films, such as Hon Truong Ba Da Hang Thit Truong Bas Soul in Butchers Body in 2006 and Khi dan ong co bau When Men Get Pregnant from 2004.

Viet Linh has made several critically acclaimed films.

In 2007, Muoi Muoi: the Legend of a Portrait, the first horror film in Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon collaborated by Korean producers also became the first rated film with an under-16 ban.