Viet Nam News
Filmmaker Đặng Nhật Minh is among nine Hà Nội residents to receive the title of outstanding citizens 2016 from Hà Nội City.
Minh is considered a virtuoso artist with film as his medium. Born in central Huế in 1938, he was initially headed for a career in medicine, following his father, noted physician Đặng Văn Ngữ.
He has, so far, directed eight movies, including Bao Giờ Cho Đến Tháng Mười (When the Tenth Month Comes) in 1984. In 2008, CNN called this movie "one of the greatest Asian films of all time."
He has also directed Đừng Đốt (Don’t Burn) (2009), the official Vietnamese nominee at the US Academy Awards under the best foreign language film category.
Minh spoke about the title and his new film project.
You have been honoured along with other Hanoians for your contribution to capital city. What does the title mean to you?
I have received many awards and titles during my lifetime. But this is the happiest and most moved I have felt. The title is given to exemplary people of Hà Nội who are ordinary but their work is extraordinary. I’m very moved by the honour and to be with others such as Đỗ Thúy Hà, chairwoman of the Việt Nam Blind Association; Nguyễn Văn Hùng, team leader of residential security; and Nguyễn Quang Tuấn, director of the Hà Nội Heart Hospital. They are contributing to keeping and maintaining the beauty and value of Hà Nội.
I am in love with the capital city and I feel that the city also loves me.
How many films about Hà Nội have you made?
Hà Nội Mùa Đông 1946 (Hà Nội Winter 1946) is about the Vietnamese uprising against French colonialists. Trở Về (The Return) tells the story of a Hanoian teacher, while Mùa Ổi (Season of Guavas) is a story about middle-class people during times of significant political change in their capital. The latest one Đừng Đốt (Don’t Burn) is about martyred doctor Đặng Thùy Trâm, a native of Hà Nội.
If I could make another film, it would be once again on Hà Nội. I also wrote a story titled Hoa Nhài (Jasmine). The film depicts the relationship between an elederly Hanoian barber and a rural shoeshine boy.
What gives you the emotion and motivation to make films about the capital city?
I was born in Huế but spent only my childhood there. I have lived in Hà Nội for 60 years, which is where my character and personality were formed. Making movies about Hà Nội comes naturally to me because of my love for Hà Nội. All my films are not commissioned works. They are made from my own inspiration. This inspiration helps me to write literature works and make films.
Many people think Hà Nội Winter 1946 is a commissioned work because it focuses on President Hồ Chí Minh. But it is not. I remember when I finished Hà Nội Winter 1946’s script, it was not approved to be made into a film. Two years later, however, I was able to make it thanks to the support of late culture minister Trần Hoàn. Another movie, Season of Guava, also received strong support from former culture minister Nguyễn Khoa Điềm.
You said you will make a film about your father, doctor Đặng Văn Ngữ, who was one of Việt Nam’s leading authorities on malaria. When will the filming begin?
At present, I have five screenplays, which I hope are as good as my previous movies if they are made into films. One script is adapted from writer Nguyễn Tri Huân’s Chim Én Bay (Flying Swallow). It is an award-winning work of the Việt Nam Writers’ Association. I adapted the others from my own stories, such as Hoa Nhài, Nước Mắt Khô (Dry Tear) and Nhà Điều Dưỡng Nước Khoáng (Mineral Water Sanatorium).
I wrote the Huyền Nhiệm (Miracle) script to dedicate to my father. It is about an intellectual joining the Việt Minh Front, a movement for national liberation. I call the five scripts five movies on paper because readers can imagine how they will be filmed.
How will you make the film?
I have written five scripts and two volumes of short stories from 2005. Additionally, I still make documentaries. I know my films are not money-spinners, but I work to satisfy my desire. I know I’m not skilled enough to make box-office and blockbuster films.
I engaged in filmmaking in the 1980s. At that time, movie buffs went to the cinema not for entertainment. If people wanted to be entertained, they would go to the circus. Audiences went to the cinema to learn more about life. Watching movies makes people live better and in a more compassionate manner.
All I want to do with Huyền Nhiệm is in connection with the script. In case I have no money to make it, I will publish it instead. I have never been discouraged because of a lack of money to make a film.
Are you disappointed when your films are not quite appreciated by young audiences?
I have nothing to be upset about because I understand everything can change. It is like how many people feel regretful about old Hà Nội, which was once peaceful and quiet. However, in the past, Hà Nội only had dozens of thousands of people, but now the population of the capital is some seven million. I am not nostalgic. I always remain true to myself.
All my films are made not only in accordance with my personal emotions, but are also based on my point of view. I am the first member of the audience to see my film. If I’m satisfied it will satisfy others. People may think my point of view is extreme, but this is me. — VNS