Some international awards and new records in revenue are a little solace of the movies industry in the year that the movies were under heavy impacts after the loss of VND38 billion ($2 million) of the Vietnam Cinema Agency.
A scene from Phan Dang Di"s "Bi, Don"t Be Afraid".
In 2011, Vietnamese cinema’s development tendency became clear. While the private sector grew up and created a competitive and bustling market, the state-run sector exposed incident problems.
Year of revenue records
Only three films were launched during the 2011 New Year, including “Co Dau Dai Chien” (War of Brides), “Bong Ma Hoc Duong” (Ghost at School) and “Thien Su… 99” (Cherub 99) but the result was outstanding.
In over ten days, the three movies earned a total revenue of VND47 billion (more than $2 million). With a total turnover of VND42 billion ($2 million), War of Brides by Vietnamese American Charlie Nguyen became the best-seller in the history of Vietnam’s cinema.
"War of Brides" and "Long Ruoi," which earned the highest revenue in 2011, were directed by Charlie Nguyen.
However, this record was broken six months later, by Long Ruoi, also a product by Charlie Nguyen. After only one month, this film had a revenue of $2 million and made many records: the Vietnamese film with the highest turnover in the first three days, the Vietnamese film with the highest number of fans, the Vietnamese film that hit revenue of $1 million in the shortest period of time and the best seller in the history of Vietnamese cinema.
Vietnamese audiences were also more interested in local films. All movies launched in 2011--both good or bad, attracted the public attention. The revenue for medium-quality products like “Giua Hai The Gioi” (Between the Two Worlds), Cherub 99 and Ghost at School exceeded producers’ expectation.
The movies that were sent to international film festivals, such as “Bi, Dung So” (Bi, Don’t Be Afraid) by Phan Dang Di or “Hot Boy Noi Loan” (Lost In Paradise) lured large numbers of viewers. Bi, Don’t Be Afraid was only screened at three cinemas in Vietnam but it attracted more than 3,000 viewers in three days.
As revenue increased highly in recently, locally-made films were not only produced for the New Year holiday but for the entire year, with various film seasons, such as: films for New Year holiday, artistic films for the period from March to May, films for summer, films for autumn and films for Christmas. In 2011, Vietnam produced 14 movies.
Year of international awards
From the left: Lan Ngoc, Hoai Linh and Minh Huong, who won the Best Actress Awards at international film festivals in 2011.
Vietnamese movies were honored at many international film festivals in 2011. After being launched at the Cannes Film Festival 2010 and won two prizes at the Cannes International Critic"s Week - the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers" SACD prize for screenplay and the Association of Independent Cinema for Distribution and the Main Fund for Social Activities ACID/CCAS prize - Bi, Don’t Be Afraid participated in nearly 50 international film festival throughout the world. This film again won many prizes, including: the Bronze Award for Outstanding Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF) in California (USA), the Best Cinematography Award in the Feature and Fiction category at the Mediawave International Film Festival in Hungary, the Grand Prix du Jury Award at Angers Premiers Plans Film Festival in France and others.
The only Vietnamese movie at the Asian most prestigious film festival - the Busan Film Festival in South Korea - was a strange name: “Here….or There?” by Siu Pham, 63. This is her first feature, which competed in the New Currents prize.
“Here….or There?” is the story about a European-Vietnamese couple, who decide to spend their remaining years at a remote fishing village. They live in peace until the husband begins thinking of death and male menopause. He dreams to return to life after death, resume his sexual life and make romantic films. Tragedy comes for the wife when her husband disappears.
The movie about gays, entitled “Lost in Paradise, by Vu Ngoc Dang attended the Toronto Film Festival in Canada and opened the homosexual film festival in Hong Kong. This film will be sent to the Berlin Film Festival in January 2012.
Three young actresses - Minh Huong, Lan Ngoc and Phung Hoa Hoai Linh - brought fame to Vietnam last year, with their first roles.
Lan Ngoc won the Best Foreign Actress Award for her role in “Floating Lives” at the Chinese Golden Rooster Awards 2011. Hoai Linh, 12, was named the Best Actress for her role in “Mother’s Soul” by Nhue Giang at the Dubai International Film Festival in December. After that, Minh Huong who played doctor Dang Thuy Tram in “Don’t Burn” was honored as the Best Actress at the Volokolamsk Film Festival in Russia.
In 2011, Vietnam was admitted as the 17th member of the Busan-based Asian Film Commission Network (AFCNet). Joining the AFCNet, Vietnamese film-makers will have a chance to exchange experience, seek finance and cooperate with other members.
The artists who were honored at the Vietnam Film Festival 2011.
The Vietnam Cinema Agency’s loss of VND38 billion was the largest scandal of the moves in 2011. Lai Van Sinh and Le Ngoc Minh, the chief and deputy chief, and the rest of the managing board had claimed to be ignorant that chief accountant, Pham Thanh Hai, had fled with VND42 billion (US$ 2 million) in 2009 and did not institute a probe until recently.
It triggered widespread anger in the movie community, with filmmakers, writers, and actors dashing off a letter to higher authorities last month, asking for a probe and for Sinh to accept his responsibility.
There were indications of corruption and a cover-up by the leaders, they wrote in the letter sent to the President, Prime Minister, head of the Central Propaganda Department, and the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, since the embezzlement had gone on for three years but they claimed to know nothing about it. Besides, the department’s main bank account was in Sinh’s name, they pointed out. Finally, Sinh and Minh had to resign.
As the two officials stepped down, the organizing board of the Vietnam Film Festival was changed, too. The chief organizer was a deputy minister of culture, sports and tourism, instead of the chief of the Vietnam Cinema Agency as schedule.
The Vietnam Film Festival 2011, which is Vietnam’s Oscar, was a failure. The festival was criticized for its poorly organized and outdated style. Many people did not understand why several films which were not highly appreciated won many prizes.
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