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Censorship council under pressure when approving films related to private life

Director of the Cinema Department Vi Kien Thanh said the censorship council bears increasing responsibility, especially when censoring films related to private lives.
A scene from 'You and Trinh'

Article 6 on violations of regulations on prohibited content in cinema activities in Decree 128/2022, which takes effect on February 1, stipulates that the disclosure of personal secrets and other secrets (except for administrative fines under the cybersecurity law), is subject to a fine of up to VND50 million.

The ‘Em va Trinh’ (You and Trinh) film stirred public opinion as the biopic featured the late musician Trinh Cong Son. The other characters mentioned in the film are still alive. Singer Khanh Ly, who had close relations with Son when he was alive, reacted to a scene in which she fed Son yoghurt when she was young when they met at a café. She said that her behavior and words were not the same as seen in the film. 

Ly told media that she never dared to use slang words when talking with Son. Meanwhile, in the film, there is a conversation concerning the question “Anh tho cua ong Van Cao a?” (Did you scrounge it from Van Cao?). Ly said that she always behaved towards Son with respect, and nothing like what is shown in the film had occurred.

The family of Michiko Yoshii, who was a poetic inspiration for Son, also raised their voice about the producer of ‘Em va Trinh’ because the film disseminated information about her personal life without their permission. They asked the producer to publicly apologize.

Analysts say there are many similar cases (family members of film characters reacting to or suing producers) in other countries. Many films are made about real characters in real life, including politicians, royal family members and celebrities. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood produced in 2019, which won two Oscar awards, faced objection from Bruce Lee’s relatives. Family members of the martial art legend thought that Bruce Lee appeared too arrogant in the film.

What does ‘privacy infringement’ mean?

Asked about the disclosure of personal lives in films, Thanh said that it was necessary to determine the behavior of "privacy infringement" in a reasonable way. 

In filmmaking activities, there are many movies and scripts mentioning the lives of some individuals in society. This is mentioned in Decree 128.

In fact, the right to privacy protection is an issue not only seen in cinema but in other fields as well. The right is mentioned in the Civil Code, while Decree 128, which includes punishments on violations stipulated in the Civil Code, says that violators will be fined up to VND50 million.

According to Thanh, the fine of VND50 million in Decree 128 is higher than in Decree 38 released before. He believes that VND50 million is a reasonable fine if referring to the other laws and regulations.

What is privacy infringement? This is a question that is difficult to answer, because movies are mostly a fictional work.  

According to Thanh, information about personal lives could serve as material for directors to make films. The important thing is that directors need to use the information reasonably, and if films touch the lives of real persons, filmmakers have to ask permission from the persons being portrayed.

Thanh said that the National Censorship Council has suggested solutions to films featuring characters in real life. 

There should be a statement at the beginning of a film that says the story and characters in the film are fictional and that coincidences with reality are just accidental.

Questions have been raised on whether the censorship council has to more carefully consider censoring films related to real characters, and whether the council has to learn about the circumstances in the films to find out if there is privacy infringement. If so, they would have to prevent the films from airing.

Thanh said the council needs to learn carefully before watching the films and discuss with producers to find out if they got permission from the people being portrayed.

According to Thanh, when censoring ‘Chi chi em em 2’ (Sister Sister 2), which is expected to hit the screen in the near future, the council noted that the movie mentioned Ba Tra, a real person, and asked the film producer to put a statement at the beginning of the film to remind people that this is a fictional work and coincidences are accidental.

This method is applied widely in South Korea and was used in ‘Thanh Soi’, a Vietnamese film produced by Ngo Thanh Van.

Analysts say that with the new regulations in Decree 128, filmmakers will have to be more cautious with their creations.

Tuan Chieu


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