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Culture Vulture ( 29-10-2014)

Update: October, 29/2014 - 11:22
Frenchman Daniel Roussel has worked for a long time with Viet Nam Television (VTV) and has directed 20 films about Viet Nam, including the popular documentary Dien Bien Phu - The Battle between a Tiger and An Elephant.

Now Roussel is working as an advisor for a new series of programme VTV Special production. He spoke about his work.

You work directly with VTV's units designing new programme VTV Special. What do you think about the ideas?

In July, I had received 11 scripts which are mainly about relationship in war times. But there is not any project about modern society in Viet Nam. I think some of the scripts are feasible. But some scripts are not qualified because the writers don't fully understand their topics.

I see professional of television producers including young people who have not had yet chances attending in intensive workshops. I want to stress that there is no limit to kinds of ideas [we're accepting for this] VTV Special.

The new programme will be a good chance for the television producers to turn their unique ideas into reality.

Most of the ideas you have received are for creating documentary films. As a veteran documentary film maker, what sort of presentation would you like to see the VTV Special become?

I think that it should take advantage of Viet Nam's history and ancient culture. It is a golden opportunity to produce documentaries that will be unique.

It is possible to shoot documentaries about reunification and Viet Nam's post-war reconcilement policies, focusing on politics and social issues as well as cultural and economic development. Our films can focus on how Vietnamese people and foreigners transcend political views and disagreements, and get to know one another out in the real world.

We can also focus on a wide range of topics outside of Viet Nam. If documentary filmmakers have balanced viewpoints, they will discover new things and help audiences to understand more. Then, the documentaries they make will inspire the audiences and spark healthy debate.

What is the most important part of making a documentary ?

I usually have two questions for myself before I make a documentary. I don't care about what filmmakers have done or will do with the subject. My questions are, first, what makes me interested in the subject, and how can I use that to lure audiences?

Second: what message does my story send to the audience, and how does it move them?

I think, experience sharing and accepting contributed opinions for the idea are the most important.

Could you talk about your future plans for working with VTV?

When a seed is sown, I want to see it grow and bud. So I want to continue co-operating with VTV, aiming to supervise documentary films production for VTV Specials. I'm ready to co-ordinate with VTV in documentary production and even distribution.

I will have some documentary projects at the end of this year. It could be co-produced with VTV for VTV for their special programming. I will spend more time travelling to Viet Nam in order to move those projects along.

I hope VTV's leaders will give more opportunities to work with their producers with a view to create good documentaries.

You have been travelling to Viet Nam more frequently these days. Why is that ?

Viet Nam seems to be my second home. After seven years working in the country as a correspondent for L'Humanite newspaper, I returned to France in 1987. But it was difficult for me to resettle there. There seems to be an invisible string tying me to Viet Nam and its people.

It took a long time to get Viet Nam out of my head. And it wasn't easy. Every night, I dreamed of documentary images which I was the only Western person to witness. The images were so precious that I really wanted to explore them.

And I engaged in script writing and documentary making despite not knowing about camera operation and film making. I can thank Viet Nam for my first documentary. I am proud of and happy because my documentaries have been aired in Viet Nam including Dien Bien Phu - The Battle between a Tiger and An Elephant.

This year, I had a chance to return to attend the Dien Bien Phu - Peaceful Symphony programme to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu Victory last May.

Through my work with VTV Special production, I will come to Viet Nam more frequently. It's great. — VNS

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