Viet Nam News
The Knight of Arts and Letters title was bestowed on Điệp by French National Cinema Centre President Fédérique Bredin at a ceremony to mark French President Francois Hollande’s official visit to Việt Nam.
Điệp is the second Vietnamese filmmaker to be awarded this title after documentary filmmaker Lê Mạnh Thích.
Điệp was conferred with the title following the success of her first motion picture titled Đập Cánh Giữa Không Trung (Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere). The movie has been screened at domestic and international film festivals and has won several prizes.
These awards include the 2014 Venice International Film Critic’s Week, Best Director at the 16th International Film Festival Bratislava in Slovakia, Jury’s Special Mention at the Festival of the Three Continents -- an annual film festival in Nantes, France -- besides a Special Prize at the third Hà Nội International Film Festival (HANIFF).
Marcus Mạnh Cường Vũ interviews her on the award and the Vietnamese film industry.
How were you informed that you were being awarded with the Knight of Art and Letters title and who did you share the news with first?
I did not pray for this award. Everything comes to me by chance and surprises me. I did not expect it, and therefore, I was not nervous about the possibility of being bestowed with the title.
Besides being momentous, the titile also motivates me. It makes me believe that great things can happen.
I called “old” Minh – cameraman Phạm Quang Minh – when I was informed about the award. He is not only my cameraman, but also a friend who has always been by my side when I make films. I want to thank him.
If I did not make films, nobody would know me. If I did not have friends such as Minh, actors, and Vietnamese and international counterparts, I would not be making films. If I did not make films, how could I dream of being such a big name today?
Do you think that the visit of the French president will boost cooperation in art between the two countries?
History proves that France has impacted Việt Nam in many fields, in particular, culture and arts. But the impact has faded. The number of Vietnamese people speaking French and appreciating French literature and cinema has reduced today.
I hope the connection between Việt Nam and France will become closer and more long-lasting following the visit of the French president. I don’t speak French and do not have any real connection with the French people, but I was still awarded the Knight of Art and Letters title. It shows the openness of the French people.
In Việt Nam, the culture is diversifying strangely. Vietnamese youth are veering towards South Korea and the US. This affects audience tastes.
Strengthening the relationship with France will help to diversify culture in Việt Nam. For example, it will help Vietnamese independent filmmakers find counterparts in France and will make it easier to approach the European market.
How are Vietnamese filmmakers supporting the promotion of Vietnamese film distribution in the world?
I used to think that international film distribution is very difficult. Actually, film distribution in the domestic market is more difficult.
Vietnamese cinema is developing its market orientation. Filmmakers are depending on a system which includes the theatre owner, distributor and producers. Sometimes, the three roles are merged into one. Only films which are purely entertainment are being produced. They say it is dependent on the audience tastes.
However, there are not many films, such as in the art-house category, for audiences to choose from.
We need to prepare a strategy to make films of different genres for the audience.
Some international art-house films have been being distributed in Việt Nam recently, but they could not attract audiences. What do you think?
It is wonderful. I think that we need to diversify film sources. It helps the audience to have more films to choose from. The market is set up and controlled by the distributor, producer, filmmaker and the concerned authority. Each link in the chain has to assist in diversifying the film market.
It usually takes some five or six years for an independent filmmaker to make a film. How about you?
I cannot push. For my second film, I want to mobilise fund from domestic resources. However, it is very difficult because the Vietnamese market lacks diversity and transparence. I’m busy with various film production forms. It takes time. I have a second script. I am considering inviting investment from the audience to make the film.
It is rare for Vietnamese independent filmmakers to ask the audience to invest. I will try. — VNS