return icon Vietnamnet.vn

Independent films struggle in Vietnam

Making independent films has long been considered a risky investment in Vietnam. There are obstacles in the production process as well as distribution, according to directors.

Independent films are mostly new cinema projects made by independent entertainment agencies rather than big firms. The film genre may be different from normal movies in content, style and art form.

Success overseas, lost at home

Director Luong Dinh Dung is among the directors with most experience making and distributing independent films in Vietnam.

Two years ago, his film Cha Cõng Con (Father and Son) found it hard to find audience at home after touring many international film festivals.

The film won various prizes including the Best Foreign Feature and Special Jury Award for Outstanding Cinematography at the 26th International Arizona Film Festival in 2017 and the Indie Spirit Best Storyline Award at the 15th International Boston Film Festival the same year.

Cha Cong Con director to release new film
Vietnamese film screened at Tokyo Film Festival

{keywords}
HEARTWARMING: Director Luong Dinh Dung and some actors of his film Cha Cõng Con (Father and Son) pose for a photo at the shooting site. Photo courtesy of the filmmakers

 

 
“Sometimes I thought I was at the end of a tunnel with no light,” Dung said. “There was a 70 per cent chance the film would never be screened at local cinemas because of a small audience.”
He personally met every distributor he could, before Lotte Distribution agreed to screen his film.

Father and Son then surprised him as it was screened throughout April and May 2017, a long time for a film made by a Vietnamese team.

Phan Dang Di, four years ago, became the first Vietnamese director to be nominated for a Golden Bear prize at the 65th International Berlin Film Festival with his film titled Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories (or Saigon Sunny Days).

At the event, the film competed with other 18 entries by famed directors all over the world.

The film tells a story of a student of photography named Vũ, who comes from a Mekong Delta province to rent a house in HCM City at the end of 1990s, early 2000s. He was given a camera as a gift from his farmer father, with which he explores life. Vu is enthralled by his handsome roommate named Thang, who uses drugs, gambles and hangs out with prostitutes. Thang introduces Vu to Van, a dancer. Vu and Van then make love though Vu also likes Thang as a male partner. Vu and Thang then visit Vu’s homeland, where they met a young woman that Vu’s father hopes Vu will marry. Thang then tries to flirt with the woman, which makes the young photographer jealous.

The film project got financial support from the World Cinema Fund as one of four projects out of 130 from 40 countries and territories to receive 40,000 euros (US$44,200).

 

{keywords}
TOUGH ROAD: Le Cong Hoang (left) and Do Thi Hai Yen in a scene from Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories (or Saigon Sunny Days). Photo courtesy of the filmmakers

 


The film’s copyright was then bought by French firm Memento Films and was the first Vietnamese film to be screened widely at 400 cinemas in 30 cities across France.

In France some 50,000 tickets were sold and the film was screened for three months, before being moved to Poland and Chinese Taipei.

Yet the film has only been screened at only events in Vietnam and not commercially in cinemas, according to Di.

“Vietnamese distributors are not much interested in this kind of film,” Di told Thanh Niên News in an interview.

Problem in notion?

Nguyen Thuy Van, who has spent 10 years in PR and film distribution for Megastar – CGV in Hanoi, said she did not distinguish between studio films and independent films.

“I don’t care whether it's an independent film, artístic film or commercial film,” she said.

“I think each film has its own audience. Distributors and producers should find the right audience for the film, who will go to watch the film happily. If they find the wrong audience, they will criticise it.”

Van also suggested filmmakers equip themselves with PR skills to provide proper material for the PR team to advertise their movie.

“They should take a course like marketing and distributing,” she said. “They should host PR activities as soon as they can at the beginning step of the project like setting up a fanpage or website to update information, behind the scenes, actors and actresses.”

Van said each film needed about 10 per cent of its income spent on PR.

Filmmakers should think of other channels like Netflix, Amazon and YouTube to distribute their work.

Favourable policies needed

Mentioning the problem, curator Truong Que Chi said few films of this genre by both Vietnamese and foreign directors had been screened in cinemas in Vietnam.

“There is totally lack of a main system to distribute independent films,” Chi said.

Curator Vu Manh Cuong explained the problem was caused by audience’s changing from watching movies in public cinemas to home cinemas, cafes or clubs.

“I agree that we lack a system for independent films,” he said. “We have no single cinema for these films like Hanoi Cinematheque, which closed a few years ago.”

Director Luong Dinh Dung explained that distributors always thought first of profit.

“It’s difficult to force them to pay attention to our films if the films are not of all people’s taste,” he said.

“However I and other independent filmmakers hope to set up a distribution system for independent films soon as the genre plays an important role in Vietnamese cinema,” Dung said.

Curator Cuong suggested the State subsidise the system.

“Otherwise, no cinema or distributing system can survive long,” he said.

Dung also said the State should subsidise the genre through favourable policies like reducing taxes or exempting taxes for a certain period of time for independent filmmakers and agencies.

Ngo Thi Bich Hanh, deputy director of BHD Company, said domestic cinema enterprises didn't get as much help as foreign enterprises.

“A domestic enterprise, when it opens a cinema, has to pay many kinds of taxes,” she said.

“The same foreign enterprise will be exempted from import tax for a long time."

Hanh said her company struggled to find finances.

“We and some partner enterprises have discussed establishing a cinema fund,” she said. “But the law does not permit this. To set up such a fund, we need collateral. Our properties are mostly intellectual properties. That’s the problem.”

In 2015, CGV Art House was set up, sparking hope among independent filmmakers. Yet the project broke up just two years later as there were not enough films to screen and a small audience, resulting in loses.

In the past two years, BHD and Galaxy companies have supported independent filmmakers in distribution. Films like Nhắm Mắt Thấy Mùa Hè (Summer in Your Eyes) by director Cao Thuy Nhi, Vai Diễn Đổi Đời (Actress Wanted) by Nguyen Duc Minh, and Đảo Của Dân Ngụ Cư (The Way Station) by Hong Anh are such lucky independent projects.

Some cinema clubs have screened independent films regularly like TDP Centre for Cinema and Theatre Talents Support and Development in Hanoi directed by director Viet Linh; Xinê House (Cinema House) in HCM City initiated by director Phan Gia Nhat Linh and Ơ Kìa Hà Nội (Hà Nội A Long Time Ago) tea room in Hanoi by director Nguyen Hoang Diep.

 

{keywords}
COMMUNITY: Filmmakers and audience members talk after watching a film at Ơ Kìa Hà Nội tea room. Photo courtesy of the tea room

 


“Each city in France has a group of cinemas subsidised by the state or by local cinema fans community,” director Di said.

He said in China, there were special film festivals for independent films.

"The Chinese government also supports ticket price for some cinemas and has favourable tax policies to lure people to cinemas,” he said. VNS

Le Huong

MORE NEWS

Foreigners take cruises on picturesque Ha Long Bay

On a cruise to discover the one-of-a-kind Ha Long Bay, visitors can experience interesting activities such as kayaking, visiting Sung Sot Cave, and savoring a variety of dishes made from fresh seafood.

The legend of the walking monolith

Mother Elephant Rock Mountain (Voi Me Rock Mountain), also known as the biggest monolith in Vietnam, appears as a back of a giant elephant lying in the middle of the Central Highlands.

Vietnamese network operators now manufacturing cameras

Most cameras provided in the local market are foreign made.

Vietnam’s most modern library

Located at National Economics University, the most modern library in Vietnam covers around 10,000 square metres and is funded by the World Bank through the Support for Autonomous Higher Education Project.

China purchases more Vietnamese fruit for lunar new year holiday

Chinese demand for fruit for the lunar new year holiday accounts for up to 50 percent of Vietnam’s total fruit exports. Experts warn that the products may get stuck at border gates.

Press agencies need to become technological institutions: minister

Twenty years ago, editors-in-chief took pride in the fact that while printing machines were working, distributors were sitting eating bread and waiting for the first newspapers to be put out to deliver.

VIETNAM BUSINESS NEWS DECEMBER 4

Vietnamese innovative startups should strive to become regional, international “unicorns”: PM

Seven more prosecuted in bribery case at foreign ministry

The investigation agency under the Ministry of Public Security has issued decisions to prosecute, arrest and search the residences and workplaces of seven more individuals for their involvement in a bribery case at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

VIETNAM NEWS HEADLINES DECEMBER 4

President arrives in Seoul, beginning state visit to RoK

IFC plans to pour 320 million USD into three Vietnamese banks

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has proposed a total investment of 320 million USD in three Vietnamese banks, reported the Nikkei Asia.

Girl with brittle bone disease opens class for poor students

As she wasn't able to fulfil her dream of becoming a teacher due to congenital vitreous disease, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tam opened a free class for poor students.

Miniature-human sculptures popular with customers

The price of a sculpture ranges from one to five million VND, depending on the difficulty of the model. Eight to 19 ordered products are made per day to guarantee progress as well as the quality of the sculpture for the customer.

Lacquer village outlasts centuries-old craft

Alongside a wide range of products made from natural materials such as wood, bamboo and rattan, the village also has created new gold- and silver-inlaid products made from ceramic, pottery, and composite.

Local firms do business in P2P lending market

P2P Lending has become a hot issue in Vietnam, especially with the participation of Chinese businesses.

Vietnam to hold first cat fish festival soon

Vietnam’s first cat fish festival is scheduled to take place in the southern province of Dong Thap on December 16-17.
back_to_top