The online-film festival Yxine Film Fest (YxineFF) started as a not-for-profit, independent project launched by Marcus Manh Cuong Vu, a Vietnamese filmmaker who lives overseas.
YxineFF earned a solid reputation among film lovers and filmmakers in Viet Nam and internationally, despite only running for five years.
Cuong left his post as the festival director and head of film programming in August. He returned to Viet Nam recently to attend the New Talents Film Festival in Ha Noi, and spoke to Culture Vulture about YxineFF.
You are founder of the first online film festival in Viet Nam, YxineFF. Why did you decide to close the festival after the fifth one, held last December? Was it difficult for you to make the decision?
First, I would like to correct the information: I did not decide to close YxineFF, and it has not been shut down. As you may know, after having built it up with my companions since 2010, I left my positions as festival director and head of film programming in August for personal reasons. It was a very hard decision for me. Before my leave, I finished the film programme for the fifth festival, and let others run the actual event.
Second, when the two other responsible people decided to leave the festival this month, many people misinterpreted that fact and assumed that YxineFF was shutting down. I would like to emphasise that I was not associated with any decision they have made.
Third, as the legal owner of YxineFF, I now have to think about what to do with it, or, better, how to improve what YxineFF has already achieved, with the goal of promoting young filmmakers'voices. I will inform the public when I am ready. I truly appreciate all the support I've received for YxineFF.
In your personal opinion, was the festival significant to young Vietnamese filmmakers?
I think that YxineFF has done a good job discovering, showcasing and supporting young talents in short filmmaking during the last five years. Since 2012, when the festival went international, young Vietnamese filmmakers have gotten the chance to see where they really are and been given the opportunity to improve.
At the latest YxineFF, Mui by Le Bao was the first Vietnamese film winning the Best Film Award among strong international competitors.
The award was decided by an international jury chaired by Tran Anh Hung (director of Norwegian Wood). This demonstrates well how significant it was to young filmmakers. For me, it was worth doing this festival.
Many Vietnamese are now involved in short filmmaking, professional and amateur. What do you think about that?
Viet Nam is an intriguing society, with art and film production increasing. Short filmmaking allows you to get your message across with limited technical equipment and finances.
What remains important is the message you would like to communicate to the audience. You can experiment with shorts, without any fear. To some extent, short filmmaking means freedom of expression.
How does short filmmaking help young filmmakers develop their career?
I have been following some young directors from their very first short film until their first feature film, which they are now working on. It is like witnessing the young boy growing up in Boyhood – directed by Richard Linklater and an Oscar 2015 contender.
What I mean is, if you want a film career, you cannot avoid making short films.
Do you have any future plans in the film industry?
Cinema is my passion. I choose to live my passion as much as I can. I will continue to work as a film reporter, a film festival organiser, a film programmer, a film producer... whenever the conditions are right.
Viet Nam is a growing market for cinema – one of the rare countries in the world where more and more screening rooms are being built at a rapid speed. Surely I would like to be part of it.
Why didn't you become a professional filmmaker?
During many years of working in the film industry, I have realised that there are a lot of directors out there who need professional help to realise, showcase or promote their films. I want to assist them. Because I think I can do it best - much better than, for example, my film directing.
Filmmaking is a complex process involving lots of teamwork. Everyone should know of his or her own talent and be happy with his or her role. — VNS