Whenever Vietnamese cinema is discussed, it's often criticized as having "notoriously stiff acting", "horrible script" and "embarrassing special effects". Maybe these criticisms are true but there are many great Vietnamese films upstaged by these bad reputations.
In this article of Vietnamese Cinema, we spotlight 20 films that really deserve more attention. Please note, the first 10 films are made by domestic filmmakers in Vietnam, and the next10 are by overseas Vietnamese called Viet Kieu. ...continue reading →
It's been almost a year since the documentary "Terror in Little Saigon" had ignited emotional reactions from the Vietnamese community. Some were against the film and others were supportive of restoring the investigation of the murders of five Vietnamese-Americans. Blames were hurled and petitions were created from both sides. The film's opponents scolded that it would irrevocably damage the image of Vietnamese enclaves as peaceful and thriving. Proponents pointed fingers at their own people for being passive and ignorant at the crimes. Facts were upstaged by false pride, a cloak for insecurity. The pursuit of truth was a license to exploit the subjectivity of the past. Silence has always been the residue of shame and guilt.
“Ăn Quả Nhớ Kẻ Trồng Cây", a Vietnamese proverb that means when eating a fruit remember who planted the tree. Not only do we remember our benefactor but we have to re-pay that generosity by planting new trees for others. With the current Syrian refugee crisis, it hits home to many Vietnamese Americans who’d been there before. A quick Google search shows heart wrenching images of Syrian civilians’ plight for freedom mirroring the Vietnamese boat people after the Vietnam War. It’s important for Vietnamese Americans to voice their concern over this emergency even though we are only a minority. Our actions do make a difference. We were on the same boats as the Syrians now, only we were a little luckier. What we do as American minority now is crucial to our future in this country. We can no longer stay silence and passive in politic. We have an obligation to at least do something. We must plant the seed for this tree that will grow.
Came across this rather entertaining and flashy Vietnamese animated commercial.
I thought this was produced by Vietnamese. To my dismay, an Ad agency called JWT commissioned a New Zealand animation studio to produce video advertising dairy products to Vietnamese kids. Most animations shown on Vietnamese TV are produced by foreign studios or by studios in Vietnam under foreigner's supervision. Vietnamese kids rarely get a glimpse of animation from their own country made by their own people. The lack of exposure to local audience is only the tip of the problem that prevents Vietnamese animation from growing. The other big issue is quality, in which a noted Vietnamese animation director bluntly says, “…the best Vietnamese 3D animation can hardly compare with the work of US university students.” That’s a pretty freaking depressing thing to say about an industry! But it’s kind of true though. This is very disappointing considering there is a decent history of Vietnamese animation reaches back to the early 60s. Let's dig deep and take a look.
Around 39 A.D. in Vietnam, two sisters and their supporters lead a huge rebellion against Chinese invasion. These Amazonian-like women are Trưng Trắc, Trưng Nhị, and their army made of many female warriors. I don't think anywhere else in the world during this time women have such freedom and power. Even though they fail in driving the Chinese away for good, their exploits imply a very different Vietnamese social order. Maybe, Vietnam is a matriarchal society before Chinese domination. ...continue reading →
Back in November 2013 there was an article from Than Nien News on an interview with Dang Di Phan, the director of Bi, Don’t Be Afraid – an acclaimed Vietnamese art film. In the interview, he revealed some current challenges faced by the fledgling Vietnamese film industry. One of which is the lack of support for young film directors. Follow the link to read the full interview. ...continue reading →
My favorite animated movie of all time is Bambi. It has a profound impact on me even when I was a child. I saw it on a black and white TV in my village and remembered that I cried during the scene where Bambi’s mother got killed by human hunters. After that my family had a puppy and I called him Bambi. ...continue reading →
Let start the New Year with the recent and epic futuristic/romantic/Waterworld-like film from director Nguyen Minh Vo. He's been making this film forever and finally a teaser's been shown on Facebook 4 days ago from today. I found the film trailer on Vimeo uploaded by the cinematographer, Bao Nguyen. The film will have its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. I’m very excited for this film from the director of Buffalo Boy - one of my favorite films. As a matter of fact, NOUC is the Vietnamese word for "water" and for "nation", so I'm stoked to see what kind of metaphor the director can pull off. Check out the trailer below.
I first heard about T. Kim Trang Tran at the Flaherty Film Seminar many years ago and have been fascinated with her work. She’s been making experimental films since the early 90s and is one of the only three accomplished Vietnamese experimental filmmakers that I’m aware of in the US. The others are Trinh Minh Ha and Nguyen Tan Hoang. Tran started working on The Blindness Series since she was in graduate school. In an interview, she says that her purpose for making these films is to address the fear of blindness and its opposite, which is vision. This motive stems from her inspiration by the philosopher Jacques Derrida and his theory of binary opposition. There are eight films in the series-- Alethaia, Operculum, Kore, Ocularis, Ekleipsis, Alexia, Amaurosis, and Epilogue: The Palpable Invisibility of Life. Each one tackles the theme of vision loss through various social, psychological, historical, sexual, and political issues. What struck me most was how different they are. However, the marriage of style and theme in each film is not arbitrary. For each film's structure fits perfectly with its subject. I didn't see them in order since they each stands on their own. I'm really inspired and compelled to write about the films but I don't just want to write about them in a conventional sense. Add to the fact that I'm not that good at writing and has a bullheaded background in experimental filmmaking. All in all, cinema is a visual and aural art form. You just have to see and hear the films to be moved by them. So I want to play with different ways of writing hoping to do justice to Tran's effective pairing of structure and content. The way that I write each film is different. I played with textual imagery, inverse text, mirror text, hidden text, missing text, and multi-language text to make each method of writing relevant to the theme of each film. I'd like the reader to break out of his/her comfort zone when reading the article and hopefully will try to see the films someday. They are difficult to get but are available from various distributors in the US. Many thanks to Tran and Third World News Reel, I got to see the films and here is what I have seen with my male Vietnamese slanted eyes. ...continue reading →
"It was nerve racking. You could never know if harm would come your way or not. The worst part was you just didn't know. So you couldn't do anything. You couldn't plan anything. All was fear. Fear of them knocking on your door and then take you away. And they were always courteous. Asking you what you did during the war. You couldn't even speak to your neighbor without fearing of being a scapegoat, finger pointed, singled out, and sent off to re-education camp." My uncle talks about what it was like after the fall of the South. He recalled walking for miles to get home when the war was declared over with his mangled blistered feet. ...continue reading →