Young documentary director Dinh Xuan Truong recently featured on a renowned Russian news show to discuss his passion for filmmaking in the country. He talks to Luong Thu Huong about work, the future and the challenges facing the Vietnamese film industry.
A major TV channel in Russia has just broadcast a report about 23-year-old Dinh Xuan Truong, an overseas Vietnamese student who has produced documentaries about Russian life. Film director Vladimir Samolichenko has commented of Truong: "All of his keenness and talent have been showcased in his ability to capture precisely the key points in his films."
Truong is now studying journalism at the National Research Irkutsk State Technical University. To date he has produced six documentaries about Irkutsk City, where he is living and working.
Inner Sanctum: How did you feel to appear on a top Russian TV channel?
I was startled when I received the phone call from the news desk of Rusia's Channel 1. I kept pondering what I had done to interest them. I was still nervous even when they explained the interview to me and especially when I was in front of the camera. I had only filmed other people before so I felt pretty bewildered when being filmed by others.
Inner Sanctum: How did your passion for filmmaking start?
I received a full scholarship to study in Russia in 2009. Among the branches of study, I chose journalism because it fits my interest in travelling and meeting new people. Moreover, television study provides me with the most inspiration. I guess you could say I have a predestined affinity with filmmaking. It comes very naturally.
Inner Sanctum: What advantages have you enjoyed from studying in Russia?
Respectable professors with endless knowledge have always been willing to answer the questions of foreign students who are too curious and talkative like me. I often spend two or three times a week back at the university watching old video cassettes dating from the Soviet period, with my old lecturer. I think I'm very lucky because such documents are very scarce.
Inner Sanctum: How did you make your first film?
I was given a digital camera by my parents for the Lunar New Year holiday in 2011. Whenever I wander in the nooks and crannies of the city, I often film what I see. When Irkutsk City, where I now live, commemorated its 350-year anniversary, the idea of editing all the clips I had recorded into a documentary suddenly popped into my mind.
As I had to do everything myself, from dubbing and writing a script based on my basic knowledge of cinematography, my first work was considered amateur. However, I am happy I had the chance to create my own beautiful memories.
Inner Sanctum: How do you choose the topics for your films?
I'm mostly concerned with Russian culture and people. Whenever I know there are traditional festivals and cultural events, I will carry my camera along to visit the places and record the special moments.
Inner Sanctum: How many films have you produced so far, and what is your favourite?
I have finished six films of different lengths, from 2.5 to over 30 minutes. To improve the quality and the content of the work, it is better not to be totally satisfied with my efforts, so I don't have a favourite. It is more important that I always feel happy whenever I accomplish anything, however small, because it is the result of my effort and enthusiasm.
Inner Sanctum: What is the most interesting feedback that you have received from audiences?
I am happiest when, even though I still speak Russian with a slight accent, the audiences welcome my work enthusiastically. Presently, there is only one of my films available on youtube, which was uploaded by the news website page of Irkutsk City. I have received many comments, and here is the one that I remember the most: "His style seems to be a bit naive and clumsy, but he is very honest and pure about our city".
Inner Sanctum: What do you think about documentary production in Viet Nam?
In foreign countries, including the area where I live, documentaries are still shown in cinemas and draw large numbers of people. In Viet Nam on the other hand, audiences – especially young ones – seem to be indifferent to this cinematic genre, which proves that Vietnamese documentaries have not found an effective way to attract audiences.
Inner Sanctum: What are your future filmmaking plans?
At present I'm gradually realising my dream of making a professional documentary. With the support of my teacher, I'm writing the script, seeking financial support and hoping that it will be filmed soon. I am certain that this time a professional crew will work on it with me, instead of me doing everything from A to Z with my digital camera.
Making a documentary in Viet Nam is certainly in my future plan too. - VNS