Director brings gritty Vietnamese action to foreign market

June 12, 2022 - 08:42

Director Lương Đình Dũng has wowed audiences and experts with his action thriller 578 – Phát Đạn Của Kẻ Điên (578 Magnum). He talks to Ngô Minh about the strategy to promote the film abroad.

Director Lương Đình Dũng has wowed audiences and experts with his action thriller 578 – Phát Đạn Của Kẻ Điên (578 Magnum). He talks to Ngô Minh about the strategy to promote the film abroad

Director Lương Đình Dũng has spent much time and effort finding backgrounds for the film '578 Magnum'. — Photo courtesy of Dũng    

578 Magnum hit the big screen in Việt Nam in May, telling the story of Hùng, a container truck driver, and his intense journey chasing the unknown abuser of his daughter. The cast is led by Alexandre Nguyen, along with Hoàng Phúc, model Jessica Minh Anh and former Miss Universe Vietnam H'Hen Nie. The film has the participation of foreign filmmakers, including British director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and South Korean stunt-director Oh Sea-young (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Snowpiercer)

Inner Sanctum: '578 Magnum' received much praise from audiences and experts, especially foreign filmmakers. However, its turnover is not high for the budget of US$3 million. How do you explain this?

Canada's website Screen Anarchy recently published the trailers, images and articles introducing 578 Magnum to its viewers. Meanwhile, director Mike Newell said he was surprised after watching 578 Magnum as he didn't expect such an excellent martial art and action movie. He also spoke highly of the performances of the film's actors and actresses.

It will not be until December 31, 2022, that all revenue sources can be confirmed. However, together with the turnover from the overseas market, we will definitely sell at a cost that exceeds our production cost.

In Việt Nam, films with big revenue are always equated with good films. This is a disastrous mistake that a few newspapers have made, even rushing to evaluate movies that do not get high revenue as bad movies. In my opinion, revenue doesn't go along with quality. Films that received awards at Cannes and Oscar festivals may not be sellable in Việt Nam.

Many films remade from foreign scripts are highly praised. I have no objection to these films, but the basic thing about Việt Nam's film critic industry today is that it is extremely messy and unreliable. Its harm is great as it can distract the audience, which is dangerous for the cinema industry.

Inner Sanctum: What was the most difficult thing about making this film?

Five fighting scenes. It took four years to find backgrounds and prepare for these scenes. I tried to guarantee 99 per cent safety for the actors and actresses, but when things happen, the remaining 1 per cent makes me nervous. Watch the film, and you can feel the danger and difficulties in the scenes of container trucks chasing each other on narrow roads along mountains and the sword fighting between the leading actor and the villain.

Director Lương Đình Dũng received many international awards for his film 'Father and Son'. — Photo courtesy of Dũng

Inner Sanctum: The film focuses on fatherhood, like 'Cha cõng con' (Father and Son), which won prizes in the US and Italy. Why have you mentioned fatherhood in two consecutive films?

I do not overuse or influence anything from the movie Father and Son. I think building a story about a father and daughter can convey the message the film is aiming for. I don't want to repeat myself. If Father and Son is a touching story about fatherhood, 578 Magnum is an action thriller. I am working on Thành phố ngủ gật (Drowsy City), a film that is different from these two films.

Inner Sanctum: After the screenings in Việt Nam, will you introduce '578 Magnum' to the foreign market?

We have reached agreements to release it in nine countries, including Japan, which has previously received distribution. I will also introduce the film at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Inner Sanctum: What will make the film successful abroad, in your opinion?

The film 578 Magnum captures the stunning beauty of the Mộc Châu Plateau, Thẩm Mã Pass in the northern province of Hà Giang and the beautiful forests in the northern region.

The film's image is elaborately made with many diverse colours of the four seasons, gathering famous beautiful places of Việt Nam. It is a film with a powerful Vietnamese identity, typical for the country in terms of images, people and extraordinary fighting scenes. This creates the attraction and love from international distributors, who are always looking for entertaining films that have a humane message and still retain the country's identity in which they are produced.

With my knowledge and experience with the international film festival and market, I somewhat understand that a film should contain "pure" Vietnamese features to be recognised abroad. It's like how foreign people like Vietnamese coffee because of its purity.

So, with Vietnamese characteristics and made by a professional multinational team, it meets many criteria for both art and entertainment. The film is also an exploration of Asian cinema.

Inner Sanctum: Would you reveal something about your upcoming project?

I am preparing for the horror film Code 45, with a budget of $5.3 million. I am not a producer but only acting as a director and screenwriter. The film is scheduled to shoot in early 2023. VNS