Vietnamese-American actress Hồng Đào in drama series Phượng Khấu, which is streaming on the POPs app. — Photo courtesy of the producer
HCM CITY — Phượng Khấu (The Emperor’s Gift), an original drama series on royal life during the Nguyễn Dynasty, is making a deep impression on audiences, especially young people.
The series has three seasons, which is directed by Huỳnh Tuấn Anh and written by Nguyễn Thuý Hằng and Đỗ Ngọc Trí.
The first season, consisting of eight episodes, is streaming on the POPs app at 8pm every Thursday.
The show is set in the Huế Imperial Palace in the years of Emperor Thiệu Trị’s rule from 1841 to 1847.
It focuses on Phạm Hiệu Nguyệt, a royal concubine of Thiệu Trị. She overcomes the power struggle in the royal household and helps her son, Prince Nguyễn Phúc Hồng Nhậm, to become Emperor Tự Đức.
Emperor Tự Đức enjoyed the longest reign of any monarch of the Nguyễn Dynasty, ruling from 1848 (after his father Emperor Thiệu Trị’s death) to 1883.
Hiệu Nguyệt became Queen Mother Từ Dụ, the most powerful woman in the 60 years of the Nguyễn Dynasty.
Young director Anh invited veteran actors to play leading roles in the film.
Meritorious Artist Thành Lộc plays Emperor Thiệu Trị, while Vietnamese-American actress Hồng Đào portrays Queen Mother Từ Dụ.
People’s Artist Hồng Vân and Meritorious Artists Tuyết Thu, Ngọc Hiệp and Lê Thiện are also featured.
Young actor Võ Minh Khải plays the role of Prince Hồng Nhậm.
Director Anh said at the press conference in HCM City early this month: “The appearance of veteran actors like Thành Lộc, Hồng Đào brings depth to the film.”
He also sought help from professors of history Nguyễn Khắc Thuần and Lê Văn Lan, artisan Vũ Kim Lộc, and Tôn Thất Minh Khôi who is the leader of Thiên Nam Lịch Đại Hậu Phi, a research project on royal life during the Nguyễn Dynasty.
He said: “Phượng Khấu not only features power struggles in royal life, but also conveys historical and cultural values of the country.”
“Through the film, audiences can know more about the rituals, rules and costumes under the Nguyễn Dynasty,” he added.
The film has been praised by the media and the public, receiving thousands of positive comments on its Facebook page and YouTube channel.
YouTube viewer Tuấn Trần commented: “Phượng Khấu helps me and other Vietnamese understand more about the country’s history. It will be an inspiration to young people to learn more about history and bring audiences back to Vietnamese film.”
Director Anh said: “We spent 500 days and a big sum for the film.”
The film’s producer, The Ocean Company, invested more than VNĐ16 billion (US$687,500).
Nearly 500 costumes costing VNĐ5.2 billion ($223,000) were used for the film.
Anh also used computer-generated imagery (CGI) to reimagine the scenery inside Huế Imperial Palace and Citadel.
Most of the scenes were filmed at famous destinations in Huế and studios in HCM City and Long An Province.
The film’s soundtrack was written by young composer Mai Thanh Duy, Minh Hà, Trang Nguyễn and Hứa Kim Tuyên.
Songs were sung by pop stars like Hồ Quỳnh Hương and Văn Mai Hương.
“Although the film has some mistakes in CGI and dubbing, it is a good Vietnamese film with an excellent cast, interesting plot and beautiful soundtrack,” said Nguyễn Văn Hùng, a 35-year-old man living in Đồng Nai Province. — VNS