Various aspects of the human condition are the main drivers of Vietnamese projects selected at the Southeast Asia Film Lab, which is part of the Singapore Media Festival.
Linh Dan Nguyen Phan went to film school in New York, then went to Vietnam and worked as a director of photography and also made some short films. The filmmaker’s first feature film, “If the wood could cry, it would cry blood”, adapted from the autobiographical novel “Tam Van Phong Dao” by Vietnamese comedian Mac Can, will delve into his childhood as a middle child in a circus. family ambulant. The film centers on the three siblings who together support their family by performing a knife-throwing act.
The permanent theme of the film is oppression. “Women at risk have been a trend in entertainment, the smaller the girl, the weaker the girl at risk, the more exciting the performance,” says the filmmaker. “This true story raises awareness of issues of dedicated roles for women that I might relate to. Set during the French War of Resistance in Vietnam, children seek each other out in a changing culture that loses bits of its culture along the way. The country’s struggle against the backdrop of history parallels these children’s struggle for independence in the face of oppression from larger forces. By borrowing the lives of these people, I hope to introduce a different chapter to the story. Vietnamese history while expressing some of my own repressed emotions.
The project is currently in the final stages of development and has started the funding phase. The team attended the Busan Asian Project Market where the project received the ArteKino International Award.
Mai Huyen Chi was editor-in-chief of MSN Vietnam, but decided to change careers and studied for a Masters in Screenwriting in London. Writing credits include “A Brixton Tale” and “The Girl from Dak Lak”.
“I stumbled upon a stateless community on the Mekong River in the city of Long Xuyen in 2014, when I tried to document the impacts of hydroelectric dams upstream on people’s lives,” explains the filmmaker. “This ambitious idea came to naught, but my encounter with this community led to an impromptu short documentary, ‘Down The Stream’.”
Singapore Lab filmmaker’s project “The River Knows Our Names” follows on from the documentary. It takes place in a floating, stateless community on the Mekong River, where a little girl tries to keep everyone together while the adults argue over the purchase of new identities that help them move ashore.
The project is at an early stage of development. “My employees and I are aware that this is not our story. This is the real life of some people, ”adds the filmmaker. “The project aims to include stateless men, women and children from the Mekong River in the process. At the stage of script development, we planned to live with the community and travel upstream to the Cambodia-Vietnam border and beyond. Due to COVID, this has not happened. We are still developing the projects and have traveled with him to some labs, workshops and online co-production markets. But we are going to take the time to develop the scenario, which will only make sense after extensive research in the field.
Meanwhile, demolition is a theme in Pham Hoang Minh Thy’s project “Daughter of the Mountain God,” where a young director is guided by a forest thief to find locations for her film in a mountain in progress. demolition for construction.
The biggest problem facing emerging filmmakers like Linh Dan Nguyen Phan and Mai Huyen Chi in Vietnam is that of censorship.
“The biggest challenge would probably be the censorship laws which are currently the subject of much debate in our country. There are a lot of restrictions when it comes to what topics we can mention and since there are no set rules it is very difficult for filmmakers, especially new ones, to navigate, ”says Linh. Dan Nguyen Phan. “Vietnamese filmmakers are working together to initiate positive movements which I hope will help create a new path for Vietnamese cinema and help emerging filmmakers have the chance to tell their stories with truth. “
“Vietnam is known for its censorship. You don’t need to censor graphic images. You only need a few visuals that paint the country ‘the wrong color’, ”says Mai Huyen Chi, adding that funding, infrastructure and distribution of independent films also remains difficult.
“History has shown that filmmakers from elsewhere are born out of challenges and have made wonderful films. If we change our angles, the fact that historical and political challenges have removed innovative and authentic storytelling could mean that there are a lot of untold stories about this country, this people, us. And people, especially young people born in an era with more freedom of mind and an abundance of equipment and resources, aspire to do just that, ”adds the filmmaker. “I have no doubts that the Vietnamese independent film scene will soon flourish for good reasons.”