By Mộc Miên
The film Kong: Skull Island, shot in Quảng Bình, Ninh Bình, and Quảng Ninh provinces last year, has been drawing a lot of attention from Vietnamese authorities, media outlets, and the public. As the very first Hollywood movie shot in Việt Nam, people across the country are eager to learn what the stars and production crew thought of the country, and how the iconic landscapes of Việt Nam have translated to the big screen.
“As any Hollywood movie, Kong: Skull Island has big investment capital and a group of top professionals behind the scenes. I cannot wait to see the country in the cinema,” Trần Anh Tuấn, 30, a movie fan, said.
In reality, Việt Nam has been used as the location for some international movies, including L’amant (The Lover – 1991), Indochine (Indochina – 1992), The Quiet American (2002), Les Filles du Botaniste (The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters – 2006). But Kong: Skull Island, with a budget of US$185 million, is the first Hollywood blockbuster shot in Việt Nam. The authorities, the media, and people hope to use the opportunity to promote Việt Nam’s image to international and domestic tourists.
Since February 18, 2016, when the plane carrying the Kong production crew landed in Việt Nam, the country’s media has been following the activities of the filming in the three provinces. So far, the film has never been far from public attention.
“We read newspapers, follow breaking news and are even curious about the side activities of the production crew. It’s hot news.” Tuấn said.
The film’s director, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, was officially appointed Việt Nam’s Tourism Ambassador for the 2017-2020 tenure by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on March 9. This appointment garnered a lot of attention from locals, especially when Vogt-Roberts expressed his wish to bring more Hollywood productions, actors and directors to Việt Nam and “to collaborate with local talent”.
The excitement around the film even seemed to turn into real heat. During the film premiere at Vivo City, HCM City on March 9, due to a mistake by one of the fire dancers, part of the stage caught fire and spread to all of the other decorations. A model of King Kong was burned to a crisp. A number of State officials, diplomats, celebrities, and other participants were forced to evacuate the scene, but luckily, no one was hurt.
“In my opinion, there was a silver lining to the incident. More people have taken notice of the film after the event. I think even more people will flock to see it,” Trịnh Lan Hương, an audience member, said.
In early March , the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism asked the Hà Nội People’s Committee to collaborate on a replica of King Kong to be erected in the Hoàn Kiếm Lake area in the centre of the capital city. The idea was to take advantage of the excitement surrounding the film, and allow locals to take pictures with the film’s biggest star. Promotional activities for Việt Nam and Hà Nội’s tourism industries could also take place around the location.
The plan was subject to extensive discussion in the media, and citizens professed their own opinions on social media. Many said that Hoàn Kiếm Lake is a sacred area with political, historical, and cultural value. Thus, the placement of a giant monkey, even if just a replica, is absolutely inappropriate. The placement of the replica is short-sighted and would not improve the beauty of the lake, potentially even vandalising the area.
“I think if they want to promote tourism, they should consider placing items like this in the shooting locations, in parks, or encourage tourist agents to set up the replicas within their own offices,” Hương said.
Fortunately, ten days later, after consulting related experts, the city’s department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism decided not to erect the King Kong replica beside Hoàn Kiếm Lake, preserving its historical and cultural significance.
Vietnamese people are passionate about cinema, and the first Hollywood film to be shot in the country has stoked an intense level of excitement. There is a great opportunity to show off the country’s beauty and promote tourism. But authorities should think about the long-term interest, and take steps that ensure Việt Nam’s cultural heritage is managed appropriately, so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come. VNS