French film focus in Vietnam fest

Asian festival's launch celebrated at Cannes

CANNES -- A day after holding a Festival de Cannes party to celebrate the launch of the Vietnam International Film Festival, organizers added new details at an International Village news conference Sunday.

The first annual VNIFF, announced at the Pusan festival last year, will take place October 17-21 in Hanoi. Perhaps reflecting the Cannes locale (and the countries' colonial history), fest programmers are looking to UniFrance, which hosted Sunday's presser, to help them select five to seven French films for a special sidebar to the 60-film program. Vietnamese filmmakers also will be showcased.

More Cannes coverage  
"We hope that through this event we can exchange more between Vietnam and the international film industry," fest director Lai Van Sinh said.

Short films, documentaries and narrative features all will be represented, with Vietnamese features sporting English subtitles and some of the most important local films from the past year included. Technicolor will sponsor a $25,000 Asia Award devoted to completing postproduction on the best Vietnamese project, and a $10,000 UniFrance & K+ award will be presented to the best French film selected by the Vietnamese audience.

"The festival will showcase the old spirit of Vietnam and the new development of the country," said head of programming Ngo Thi Bich Hanh, who points out that local boxoffice has risen 400% in the four years that she and Sinh have been planning the festival.

She and Sinh revealed that Hanoi's French-built, turn-of-the-century Opera House will host fest screenings and its National Convention Center, which holds 2,500 people, will house the opening and closing ceremonies. The city happens to be celebrating its 1,000th anniversary (Thang Long) this year.

The deadline for fest submissions is Aug. 8 and the lineup will be revealed in early September. The five-person jury, which will include one Vietnamese member, is being recruited now.

"Our film industry is still new, but we believe we have good potential," Sinh said.