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Culture Vulture (June. 05 2013)

Update: June, 05/2013 - 09:48

Veteran cartoon director Pham Minh Tri is preparing to launch his latest production, an animated film titled Ngo Quyen and the Great Victory of Bach Dang.

After many years working in cartoon production, Tri has won several prizes for his work at film festivals and from the Cinematography Association. At the 17th National Film Festival in 2011, his film Dragon's Child won the Silver Lotus.

He spoke about his new production and his desire to complete a long-running cartoon animation project to produce 100 historical films.

You have become well-known for your animations and particularly your historical films. Could you tell us about your latest production?

During my long career, historical cartoons have brought me good luck. My first work in 1986 had a historical theme. It was a 30-minute film about Co Loa Citadel. When I moved to the Viet Nam Television, my colleagues and I decided to start a project to make 100 episodes about the nation's important historical milestones.

I myself have contributed by producing five episodes of the series Thanh Giong (Saint Giong); five episodes of Son Tinh Thuy Tinh (The Mountain and the Water Genies) and three episodes of Trieu Quang Phuc. History has always been the most interesting theme to me.

My newest series is called Ngo Quyen and the Great Victory of Bach Dang, and follows our national hero Ngo Quyen (AD 897-944) from his early life through to his amazing achievements over Chinese invaders on the Bach Dang River in AD 938.

The five-episode cartoon will be 60 minutes in length. It is currently in post-production and will be launched soon.

Recently, a six-minute cartoon about the same battle was posted on the internet by a group of students and received a huge number of views. Have you seen their cartoon yet?

I did. And I'm happy about their efforts. Making a historical cartoon is a really big challenge for young filmmakers. It requires skill as well as passion. We need to encourage young people to pay more attention to Vietnamese culture and history. They can then translate this into art.

Could you tell us more about your plan to make 100 historical episodes?

Historical themes have long been the focus of Vietnamese cartoon makers. The project has been carried out since 2005 by the Viet Nam Television Film Centre's Cartoon Production Section. So far, about 80 episodes have been produced.

The project was initiated with the intention of truthfully reflecting the progress of the nation through a modern medium.

Apart from through television, how can Vietnamese animations reach a wider audience?

There are many ways of bringing animated cartoons to audiences. It is not necessary to only work through cinemas, theatres or television. We can disseminate our work through the internet or DVDs. My film Dragon's Child is among the very few to be distributed by Phuong Nam Film Studio.

In the long-term, we must make good use of the cartoons which were produced in the past. We can learn a lot from them. We can do this by asking television studios to have a fixed broadcasting time to air animations. However, this will require investment in human resources.

Animated cartoons by amateur filmmakers are becoming more popular, suggesting that more young people have a passion for this medium. Do you agree?

Yes. In fact, many young people have been trained professionally in animated cartoon making and they love this work. Unfortunately, many of them can not follow their passion because of the working environment here and low salaries.

It is not only cartoons, but also short features and documentaries that are facing these problems. Films have been made by passionate young filmmakers that can only find an audience over the internet.

The question is whether they stick with the profession and keep on making films?

Government policies have helped private studios succeed in producing blockbusters that cause a stir in the domestic market.

However, these studios have not invested in animated cartoon making for many reasons. — VNS

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