The "Let's Go to the Cinema" award ceremony was held as part of the Francophone Film Festival last week in Ha Noi. The event also marks the end of a four-year mission led by Anissa Barrak, the Asia-Pacific regional director of the International Organisation of la Francophonie (OIF).
Barrak spoke with Bach Lien about the festival and how OIF has supported Viet Nam in the cultural sector over the past four years.
This is the fourth time the contest has been organised in Viet Nam. Why did OIF decide to hold it?
We wanted to promote the festival and motivate the spectators to come to watch the films presented here. We created a website for the contest, and the number of spectators of all ages rose significantly. The films had subtitles in Vietnamese, so people who didn't speak foreign languages could watch them.
It's also an excellent occasion for the public to discover the culture of francophone countries through the cinema.
Besides the festival, what other cultural events has OIF organised in Viet Nam over the last four years?
Most of our important cultural events were organised for International Francophone Day (March 20). Several concerts from different well-known artists from Francophone countries were held at the Ha Noi Opera House. They played with Vietnamese artists.
Music is a universal language that connects people. Creating a dialogue between cultures is one of our objectives.
In terms of literature, with co-operation from Ha Noi University we translated a novel by Algerian writer Kamel Daoud entitled The Meursault Investigation (Meursault, Contre – Enquete). It won the author the Goncourt prize, the most prestigious French literary prize, earlier this month. Daoud will come to Ha Noi in June.
In 2013 we also translated into French a collection of short stories called Nghia Dia Xom Chua (Cemetery of Chua Village) by Vietnamese writer Doan Le.
I find it a pity that the world outside of Viet Nam only knows about Vietnamese literary works written by overseas Vietnamese. They do not know much about the works of Vietnamese authors living in Viet Nam today. That's why we wanted to do more.
Moreover, we have sponsored some Vietnamese films and helped translate several Vietnamese films into French so they can be screened at Francophone film festivals.
More and more people are becoming interested in Francophone culture, but not many want to learn French because it's hard to find a job that utilises it. Why does OIF call learning French an opportunity?
You can learn a foreign language but you may not work in that language.
A foreign language is useful in other ways. It helps you acquire new knowledge in different areas that can help you succeed in your career and life.
Learning French will be a great advantage when you want to work in an international organisation because most of them have French as an official language.
French opens new horizons for those who learn it. As you know, Viet Nam and Asia plan to promote their economic relations with Africa, where many speak French. To work with them, speaking French is an advantage.
Of course, we have always encouraged everyone to learn French and English together. We want to promote linguistic diversity where French is spoken along with other languages.
What should be done to promote the Francophone life in Viet Nam?
More diverse francophone cultural activities would help develop this culture here. We have tried to offer the public in Viet Nam interesting cultural programmes and we will continue to do so.
To understand the mentality of a people and the history of a country, we have to know its culture.
After nearly four years living and working in Viet Nam, what has made you most happy? Do you have any regrets as you get ready for your departure?
I am very happy that I could discover many new things I didn't know before arriving in Viet Nam. Like many people, I had some difficulty adapting to my new life here. But I've had wonderful experiences.
I discovered a country with people who have great inner strength, who are very studious, dedicated and determined.
I regret not travelling as much as I wanted in Viet Nam. I wish I would have discovered the north of the country, but I didn't have much time. But I hope I'll be back soon for vacation.
Back in my homeland, Tunisia, I hope to promote the relations between the two countries. Actually, we don't have a Vietnamese Embassy in Tunisia or a Tunisian Embassy in Viet Nam. — VNS