Trần Thanh Huy
The Việt Nam premiere of the film Ròm on July 31 was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the production company behind the film was fined VNĐ40 million (US$1,700) for participating in the Busan International Film Festival without a screening licence from the culture ministry.
It is the first film by young director Trần Thanh Huy and the first Vietnamese film to win the top award in the 'New Currents' section in the regional film festival.
The ministry's online newspaper Điện Tử Tổ Quốc (Motherland Online) interviews director Huy about Ròm and filmmaking.
How did you feel when Ròm officially received a licence to be screened in Việt Nam?
I cried. When my film got a licence to be screened in Việt Nam I was both happy and confused. During the waiting time, I still believed that my film would overcome difficulties.
In the beginning, I submitted the original version which participated at the Busan festival to the culture ministry's Department of Cinema. I received comments from the National Film Council and tried to make the changes requested by the council.
I believe this version will meet the need of Vietnamese audiences because of the highlights of the film and the scenes that I like the most have not been cut.
The council including experienced artists listened to my opinion. I had to talk a lot directly and through the phone with them. I think that each member of the council wants Ròm to be shown.
Do you think that all the film's troubles were your fault?
I admit my fault. I did not think about preparations for international festival participation. When I sent Ròm to the Busan film festival organisation it was just a draft.
It took eight months for the festival organisation to select 300 films from 7,000 films for the final round.
At that time, I also thought that Ròm would not be shown in Việt Nam because it was made by beginners. We made this film ignoring profit. Even the investors did not think it was possible to earn money from this project.
How did you get the idea for the film?
It developed from my graduation thesis entitled 16.30. I wanted to find something unique and special.
One day, I drove on the Thị Nghè Bridge in HCM City and I saw little boys selling lottery tickets. I remembered that I used to sell lottery tickets like them.
When I was a little boy I always played with street children and asked to join in with selling lottery tickets. They earn a living by selling lottery tickets but I didn't have any. I just wanted to have money to buy cakes and play online games.
The two goals are completely different. The memory urged me to learn about the life of street children. I took the time to enter their world. Luckily, my neighbours are labourers and helped me to learn about them.
A scene in Ròm by Trần Thanh Huy.
Did you expect your first film would take eight years to complete?
Before shooting Ròm in June 2016 I brought my project around the world attending most workshops, film markets and young film producer courses.
I wanted to prove to the producers and investors that Ròm was a good movie that deserves to be made.
There were 15 projects at the pitching round in Busan's film project market. These projects beat out hundreds of others.
Ròm was shot in two years and the editing time was three years. After editing I used crowdfunding for sound-making in France.
Across the world, it is normal to take a long time for a movie's shooting and post-production. Not only me, but other Vietnamese young filmmakers also have had to experience this long process.
Why did not you think about profit when you made the film?
I used my energy to help my crew have a strong belief. I remember that after I came back from Cannes, each year I received two or three projects from Vietnamese distributors.
I refused all the invitations because I wanted to make a film for my youth and my passion.
Could you tell more about short film 16.30 which was shown at 2013 Cannes' short film corner? Could you tell more about your experiences in Cannes?
I was disappointed after coming back from Cannes. I realised that I had to focus on my studying and developing the path of making a motion picture.
After Cannes, I was interviewed a lot by domestic media. People saw me as a phenomenon of Vietnamese cinema. The public acclamation made me feel miserable.
I came to Cannes thanks to 16.30. But my short film wasn't screened in a cinema. There are more than 2,000 short films selected from dozens of thousands of films. At Cannes, the audience can select the short film they want to see using a computer.
I saw many young filmmakers distribute flyers to introduce their films. I took home lots of these flyers.
I was shocked when I was invited to a screening at Lumiere, Cannes' largest cinema. I was in a five-star hotel with a sea view.
I walked about 700m to the cinema and queued up. Meanwhile, other filmmakers whose films were competing at the festival arrived at the cinema in luxurious cars and walked on the red carpet with camera flashes.
Photographers snapped every film crew for about five or seven minutes but not young filmmakers like me.
When I was invited to attend Cannes, I thought I was recognised. Actually, I was just known in the short film category as a young filmmaker. It made me determined to make a film that was truly recognised. - VNS