Da Nang-based documentary director Doan Hong Le won US$20,000 at the seventh DMZ Docs International Documentary Film Festival for her project.
Her project, titled Nhung Loi Cuoi Cung Cua Cha Toi (My Father's Last Words), has been selected together with other five projects by film makers from South Korea, India, Japan, China and Cambodia for the "Long Documentary Project" category. Nearly 150 entries by independent film makers throughout Asia have been sent to the jury.
DMZ Docs is an annual festival for documentary films presented jointly by Gyeonggi province and Paju City. The slogan for the festival this year is "I shoot the DMZ". Le chatted about the winning project.
Could you brief us on your documentary project?
The documentary features my father's "first love" with the revolution. In 1945, when "revolutionary waves" swept through the central province of Quang Nam, he followed the troops with all his youthful enthusiasm. Now he is over 80 and suffering from Alzheimer's. He has forgotten everything. The only memory remains in his brain is his first "love" for the revolution. My Father's Last Words records all the last words an old father tells his daughter.
What are the topics other than "war" that can be exploited by Vietnamese documentary makers?
Foreign audiences are very interested in topics of today's Vietnamese society, especially the young generation, who do not know anything about the wars in Viet Nam.
The film makers are people of the present day. They see the past through the lens of today's people. The wars are just reflections in the mirror of today's society.
It is true that the typical image of Viet Nam among people internationally is a country of wars. But it does not mean that only "wars" are things to be cared for here.
The wars are a part of the country's history. The same way as other wars happening around the world are a part of humankind's history. In general, human beings share the same values such as love, peace, belief, and common feelings, in addition to happiness, suffering and pain.
Arts are means of expression. I strongly believe that not only Viet Nam but any other societies can be gold mines to be exploited.
What do you think are the necessary and sufficient conditions for a documentary to be sent overseas?
If a Vietnamese film maker approaches a producer or distributor to launch the documentary overseas the first question to be asked is, "Why do overseas audience need to care about a story happening in Viet Nam? Is there any relation between this story and those in other societies?"
Why do we cry, laugh, hope, and anxiously follow the fates of strange people, who speak different languages, live in far communities, and practise strange behaviour? Because as human beings, we all love and hate the same things.
Thus, a documentary to be screened abroad should bear both local and global features. The works should tell stories of the maker's country, while holding the interest of an international audience.
You were among the first trainees at Varan Ateliers workshop in Viet Nam 11 years ago. The workshop offers training to those who have documentary filmmaking experience and wish to perfect their directing skills, or those who are on the lookout for a career shift. You are still engaged in making documentaries, but what about other friends on the same course?
Eleven years have gone by since our first course. Not many trainees at the same workshop follow the independent film making career because it is quite difficult. Yet, we still remain engaged with one another with the only thing: love for cinema and desire to produce documentaries telling our living time in cinematic language, with lots of feelings and the hard beauty of reality.
That is why we can share one another's ideas easily, plans to make a documentary as well as support one another in the production stages, seeking sponsors and distributors. — VNS