|History revisited: A poster of Nhung Nguoi Viet Huyen Thoai (The Legend Makers), a historical film produced last year from the State budget. — Photo courtesy of the film crew
HA NOI (VNS)— The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has decided to use funds from the State budget to produce four feature films, three of which will be historical biopics.
The films are set for release next year and then screened at the Ha Noi International Film Festival (HANIFF) 2014.
The first film, Song Cung Lich Su (Living with History), will track the national revolution against the French and the eventual battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954. It will focus on the story of General Vo Nguyen Giap, the mastermind of the famous campaign, and will be released to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the victory (May 7).
Released shortly after to mark the 125th birthday of late President Ho Chi Minh (May 19), Nha Tien Tri (The Prophet) will follow the President's life and activities from 1947-50 during the resistance war against French invaders. It will be directed by Vuong Duc with a script compiled from three novels by Hoang Nhuan Cam.
"This is a great opportunity for the State-run Viet Nam Film Studio to perform well in the market," said Duc. "We hope to follow up our film with another, using a mix of State and private funding, called Coi Nguon Thieng (The Holy Origin), about President Ho's mother."
Later in the year, Giai Phong (Liberation) Film Studio will release My Nhan (The Beauty) directed by Le Hoang from a screenplay penned by Van Le, the writer behind Long Thanh Cam Gia Ca (The Fate of a Songstress). That film centred on a love affair in the 18th century between one of the country's most famous poets and a young singer, and won the Best Celluloid Feature Film at the Golden Kite awards in 2011. Le has once again created a historical romance with My Nhan, this time set against the backdrop of a rural village in the 17th century reign of Lord Nguyen Phuc Tan.
Finally, a state funded drama titled Nhung Dua Con Cua Lang (Village Children) about the life of a group of characters growing up in a rural area will be made by the private film studio of Nguyen Thi Hong Ngat, vice chairwoman of the Viet Nam Cinema Association.
Last year, the Viet Nam Film Studio produced Nhung Nguoi Viet Huyen Thoai (The Legend Makers), a film about General Dinh Duc Thien (1913-97) who helped build the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the American War. The film was commissioned by the State with a budget of VND8.6 billion (US$410,000). It is scheduled to be screened on the occasion of this year's National Day (September 2).
The film depicts the General and his soldiers bravely building an oil pipeline along Truong Son mountain range to serve transport during the war.
While the State invests in cinema, especially the production of historical films, the market is still dominated by foreign films and privately-backed Vietnamese films. Audiences are increasingly booking tickets for commercial films rather than the serious and sometimes dry films produced by the State. Many of these historical efforts are only ever presented on national anniversaries or at film festivals.
"Most private studios and foreign enterprises prefer importing foreign films to meet the demand of audiences," commented Ngo Phuong Lan, head of the Ministry of Culture's Cinematography Department.
"Customers at the box offices are mostly young people, aged 15-35, who favour high-budget films from the US and South Korea," she added.
Ever since Viet Nam joined the World Trade Organisation in 2007, foreign films have not been restricted by a fixed quota and may be imported providing that they don't violate Viet Nam's cinema laws.
"Vietnamese films can't compete with them," Lan said. "In my opinion, the State should invest much more in films which are serious, artistic and educational. These historical films can then be screened in prime time." — VNS