Friday, March 23 2018


Documentary fest helps ailing genre

Update: June, 25/2013 - 10:22
Cange of scenery: A scene from the documentary Letters on the Wave by director Vuong Khanh Luong. It is one of many products screened at the international documentary film festival recently held in Ha Noi.
HA NOI (VNS) — Viewers flooded a recent international documentary film festival in both Ha Noi and HCM City, even though for a long time local audiences have shown little interest in documentary film.

Since its inception in 1959, Vietnamese documentaries have revealed the horrors of war as well as the glories of national construction. The Viet Nam National Documentary and Scientific Film Studio has produced international award-winning films such as Nuoc Ve Bac Hung Hai (Water to Bac Hung Hai), Ha Noi Trong Mat Ai (Ha Noi Through Whose Eyes), Chuyen Tu Te (How to Behave) and Tieng Vi Cam O My Lai (The Sound of the Violin in My Lai).

Yet today, the industry struggles to draw viewers.

"Vietnamese documentaries have not attracted audiences because they include many indirect comments rather than statements and actions by the characters themselves," said veteran filmmaker Nguyen Thuoc, who has films shown at this year's festival.

The event started in 2009; this year, it is taking place in Ha Noi and HCM City from June 5 to 29.

Just for a change

Big screen: A documentary screening held at Hoa Sen University attracts a large audience. The fifth International Documentary Film Festival is taking place in HCM City until June 29. — Photos courtesy Hoa Sen University.

In Ha Noi, the opening day drew hundreds of viewers. It featured Belgian documentary A Summer with Anton, which was shot in Moscow.

"The documentary is very interesting because the director chose a theme which is very tough even for Russian directors," said audience member Nguyen Hong Anh, who works at the People's Deputy newspaper and is an ardent documentary fan. For her, the festival presented a rare opportunity to see these movies on a big screen.

"Vietnamese documentaries are only shown on television," she pointed out.

HCM City is the country's biggest market for cinema, but as in the capital, not much attention is paid to documentary screenings.

"The festival is a rare opportunity for documentary lovers in HCM City," said Nguyen Thi Thuy Van, who works at Hoa Sen University, where the festival is taking place. She said that she would like to see Swiss documentary Jean-Jacques Rousseau Tout Dire, about the 18th-century philosopher.

On the opening day of the festival, the university hall was filled with local students and filmmakers.

"We aim to reach a wide audience, in particular young people," said Ho To Phuong, one of the festival's organisers from the university. "I'm really surprised at the audiences' love for documentary film. After the screening, they stay on and ask many questions to foreign directors."

On the sidelines of the film festival, many training courses have been held where experts from Belgium, German and France share their experience with Vietnamese filmmakers.

Their influence may help create a new era for Vietnamese documentary film.

Director Bui Thac Chuyen said training courses help "inspire audiences, especially young people, to get in the habit of watching documentaries". — VNS

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