VietNamNet Bridge – Almost one week after the second Ha Noi international film festival, movie lovers in Ha Noi have already stopped talking about it.

Moviegoers crowd the Megastar Vincom cinema complex in Ha Noi. Viet Nam's film industry is still struggling to compete.

The new Vietnamese feature films and short films that competed at the festival all seem to have been forgotten, except for Thien Menh Anh Hung (Blood Letter), which won the jury prize for feature film. Blood Letter, Viet Nam's first martial arts-action-fantasy in the style of kiem hiep (sword fighter adventures), earned acclaim from the jury for its professional appearance. Jan Schutte, president of the jury, also noted it was one of the most expensive Vietnamese films ever made, with a budget of VND25 billion (US$1,300,000).

However, the film has largely failed to win over Vietnamese film goers, many of whom have criticized the work for its resemblance to the martial art films of China and Hong Kong.

"The director should highlight more Vietnamese cultural values in the film instead of focusing on martial arts scenes like in China or Hong Kong," says Nguyen Thanh Lan, a 30-year-old bank employee.

Even during its occurrence, the five-day festival does not seem to have attracted Vietnamese audiences to local movies.

This is no wonder: it would be hard for such a short event to make a dent in the habitual indifference of Vietnamese towards local movies, and the lack of professionalism in promoting the festival did not really help.

According to Phuong Mai, an employee of the Ngoc Khanh cinema centre, the projection room was not very crowded during the festival, even though Vietnamese films were shown free of charge.

Even though the festival date and time was widely broadcast in the local media, not many people knew about it. And those who knew about the film festival could not find time to attend – or didn't want to attend – because they had watched these films before or were more interested in foreign films.

The festival gave Vietnamese audiences the opportunity to enjoy more than 30 remarkable films about Viet Nam made during the renewal period (from 1986 to early 2000). These include Thuong Nho Dong Que (Nostalgia for the Countryside), Mua Oi (Guava Season), Doi Cat (Sand Life), Thung Lung Hoang Vang (Deserted Valley), Hay Tha Thu Cho Em (Please Forget Me) and Nhung Nguoi Tho Xe (The Sawyers).

It was the first time such a big number of Vietnamese films has ever been screened at an international film festival.
"I wanted to watch high-quality new films," said Tran Ngoc Vinh, an audience member.

His opinion was echoed by Ngo Phuong Lan, head of the Ministry Culture, Sports and Tourism's Cinematography Department and director of the festival.

"It's clear that Vietnamese filmmakers should try their best to make better films in the future," she said, "so that at future film festivals, Viet Nam can be proud to present great films to its people and international guests."

According to Vietnamese actress Nhu Quynh, a member of the feature film jury at the festival, Viet Nam's filmmakers and actors should work harder to make quality films.

"I was not surprised when the awards for best feature film and best short film were not presented to Vietnamese films," she said frankly. "Our actors are often afraid of looking ugly. So not many actors dare to act with all their hearts and feelings."

Experts taking part in an international conference at the festival agreed that if Viet Nam produced more artistic films, the country's film industry could raise its profile both internationally and at home.

"Vietnamese filmmakers now tend to make more commercial films like those produced in China or Hollywood, but it seems that this is not a good choice. I loved the innocent beauty of the Vietnamese films that were made in the past," says Dr Aruna Vasudev, founder-president of NETPAC and a member of the consulting board of the second Ha Noi International Film Festival.

"Twenty years after watching war films like Thuong Nho Dong Que, I am still touched. Vietnamese directors should produce more such works full of human value," she said. "Cinema is an excellent way to help people get to know other countries and people. It was Vietnamese cinema that attracted me to Viet Nam!"

At the closing ceremony of the festival, Ngo Phuong Lan said the film festival was the first step to help the Vietnamese film industry integrate with the film industry both in the region and internationally.

Many optimistic Vietnamese audience members also said they believed the domestic film industry had a bright future, where Vietnamese filmmakers could watch their films presented alongside those of talented foreign directors.

Source: VNS