The biennial National Film Festival will officially kick off next Monday in the northern province of Quang Ninh's Ha Long City. According to the culture ministry's Department of Cinematography, up to 139 works of cinematography will vie for the Golden Lotus Award for best feature film, science documentary and animation.
Head of the department and the festival's organising board Ngo Phuong Lan spoke to Culture Vulture about the festival and the nation's film industry.
Compared to previous national film festivals, what makes the 18th different?
This film festival sees the largest number of entries, with 139 in all three categories: feature film and video, science documentary and animation, compared to 108 in the 2011 festival. This shows an encouraging sign for the success of the event.
It's noteworthy that the most highly anticipated area of the film industry, feature movies, has 23 contributions, five higher than the 17th festival. The remarkable increase in the number of entries is also accompanied by the significant rise of participants. We are doing our utmost to provide the best logistics services for around 1,000 people including the personnel in the country's film industry and international guests.
Guests from France, South Korea and the Philippines, as well as foreign diplomats and heads of foreign culture centres based in Viet Nam, are expected to join the festival's sideline activities, including two workshops titled Cinema with Quang Ninh Province and Tourism Development through Cinema, and Filmmaking and Distributing Co-operation.
This festival's award ceremony will include an important, audience-voted award. The audience's vote will be conducted completely unbiased under the observance of the public.
Many hold that a film is awarded, or not, depending on the criteria of each festival as well as the jury's sense, thus, a winner may not be better than a loser. What do you think?
This film festival conveys an obvious message: "Viet Nam's Cinema – national, humane, creative and integrating". This is the fundamental basis for the jury to mark competing movies. Any work that satisfies these four criteria will be awardable. To make it clear, a work that is of high national identity, of creative interpretation of language and integration effectiveness, and with content showing deep humanism, will be the one.
The film festival will not seek for films that may be excellent regarding the content but lack the language of cinematography or professionalism.
It's a matter of fact, for any award there always exists two different flows of opinion. Our main target is not to satisfy all. Each festival aims at selecting works meeting its criteria, and these winning works will contain certain values that will help orient the nation's film makers in the future. We make it clear that the national film festival is a professional operation. An award-winning movie will be a true cinematography work.
Could you provide an overview of the quality of the entry?
It's not easy to say. As head of the organising board, I do not want to reveal my own assessment. I trust the jury and let them have their own decision.
The three juries for the three categories of entries are made up from 21 prestigious people in the film industry who are completely uninvolved in the competition's works. We expect they will act as "filters" to single out the quintessential works, from which we can build up a standard for the national cinema industry in the coming time.
We are encouraging a diversified development of the country's film industry. Each type of movies is designed for a particular type of audience. Therefore, there is always a gap among cinematography works. As a result, films participating in a festival are pretty diversified.
Will an award help the winners achieve marked success in the market?
We, the organisers, always aim for that end. Entries include four new films in the market. Except for one, chosen to be screened at film week [last month] to celebrate the film festival, the other three will be screened for the first time at the film festival. Cinemas will open free for the public to view all 139 films during the three-day festival.
What do you expect?
One of the key activities of any cinema industry is the film festival. Of course, many countries in the world focus on international film festivals rather than national film festivals. Thus, we should not compare our festival with others. Viet Nam's National Film Festival is an ample opportunity for all involved in the national cinema industry to get together to exchange, learn from each other and discuss ideas for a better future of the industry.
Integration is one of the festival's criteria. Therefore, we expect that Vietnamese movies will be welcome and reach more people worldwide. It will be enough if a cinematography work just achieves its success at home. — VNS