A ceremony to close the 10 Months 10 Docs project was held last week in Ha Noi. The project was organised by the Centre for Assistance and Development of Movie Talents (TPD), and sponsored by the US Embassy in Viet Nam.
Culture Vulture talks with director Bui Thac Chuyen, one of the TPD's founders, about the project and role of the TPD.
What are your comments about the project's results?
It's great. The ten documentaries are good. At the closing ceremony of the project last week, the three best films were screened and had a strong impression on audiences. They were Nha Doi Dien (The Opposite House), featuring the love of the two gay men; Me con Ha (Mother and Daughter), depicting domestic violence; and Vi Sao Binh Khong Cuoi Chong (Why is Binh not Married?), that tells the story of a single woman who faces pressure to get married from her family and neighbours.
Mother and Daughter by Pham Thu Le is a really good film. It's about a 12-year girl who is adopted by a woman addicted to drugs. The little girl is constantly beaten by her foster mother's lover.
This film shocked audiences. It's very moving.
How do the filmmakers get benefit from the 10 Months 10 Docs project?
The 10 Months 10 Ten Docs project was launched to give young filmmakers a chance to make short documentaries. The 30 minute films focus on different themes, including the environment, gender equality, the LGBT community and children's rights.
I think the themes are relevant in society.
The project was advertised to young filmmakers. Under the project, the filmmakers had to take part in a short training course with Mark Jonathan Harris, three-time Oscar-winning American documentary filmmaker, award-winning children's novelist, and a Distinguished Professor from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.
They also took part in a seminar about sound techniques with French sound expert Arnold Soulier, and received guidance from several Vietnamese experimental filmmakers.
Do you plan to screen the films?
Yes, distribution is a part of the project. Last Saturday, the films were screened at TPD's cinema at 51 Tran Hung Dao Street. We are planning to show these films to wider audience.
We will show the films with English subtitles as part of a programme titled TPD Presents at the French Cultural Centre. We plan to screen every Sunday, and talks with the filmmakers will be held after the screening.
We have also received support from Ha Noi's Department of Education and Training to show the films in high schools, colleges and universities.
We hope television studios will buy the films.
The TPD has been running for 13 years. What significance does it have for Vietnamese filmmakers?
The TPD is a top filmmaking training centre in Viet Nam. We design our curriculum systematically. However, we focus on inspiring filmmaking passion among young people, because it is difficult to earn money from documentary making.
I'm proud of saying that established filmmakers in Viet Nam such as Phan Dang Di and Nguyen Hoang Diep were former students of the TPD.
Di's latest film, Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories, was the first official Vietnamese movie to compete for the top prize at the 65th Berlin Film Festival.
Diep's first hand movie, Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere, won many international prizes including Best Director at the 16th International Film Festival Bratislava in Slovakia, and the International Critics' Week at the 71st Venice Film International Festival in Italy.
The two directors were the first filmmakers to receive financial sources from the TPD to make their first short films.
You are also a filmmaker. How do you run the TPD without State budget support?
At the beginning, the TPD was sponsored mainly by the Ford Foundation and other organisations, cultural funds and embassies in Ha Noi. Since 2009, the TPD hasn't received any funding from Ford Foundation, but thanks to other sponsors, we have survived.
I have even set up a company to make money for the TPD, but I'm still making films. It is my main job. — VNS