Vietnam debuts film festival in Hanoi

Event celebrates Hanoi millennium, seeks to jump-start local industry

HANOI – Good evening, Vietnam.

The first Vietnam International Film Festival got underway Sunday night in the capital city Hanoi, with a pre-event red carpet broadcast live by statecaster Vietnam TV throughout this country of about 80 million people.

The event follows the official celebrations of Hanoi’s millennium, held earlier this month, and attempts to jump-start a movie industry in a nation where about half its population was born after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Opening night featured a screening of Luc Besson’s “Arthur and the Two Worlds War” – a strange choice considering that the film is neither Vietnamese nor new, nor was the director in attendance. Organizers did not comment as to why the film was chosen. The film showed at the My Dinh Convention Center on the outskirts of Hanoi. 

Following a variety show and introduction of main festival officials and jury members, including Australia film director Phillip Noyce (“The Quiet American”) and Venice Film Festival artistic director Marco Mueller, the screening of “Arthur” began, at which point about 40% of the 2,000 attendees made their way out of the venue.

The first edition of the festival will show 68 films at three sites over five days. Ten Asian films are participating in the InCompetition Program, judged by Noyce, Mueller, and French cinematographer Francois Cantonne (“Indochine”).

At a press conference at the beginning of the day, festival organizers said that “most of the tickets” for the event’s screenings had been sold, but did not give an exact number. They also indicated that half of the proceeds raised from ticket sales would be donated to relief efforts for victims of floods currently inundating central Vietnam.

Vietnam is gambling that it can jump-start its film industry by scheduling its event between Asia’s two largest festivals: the Pusan International Film Festival, which concluded on Oct. 15; and the Tokyo International Film Festival, which opens on Oct. 23.

“It’s very important to have a new event in Southeast Asia,” said Mueller in a red carpet interview with Vietnam TV. “There have been other attempts, but they did not correspond with a dynamic scene. The population is very young, and it is quite right to escort those new talents for discovery both within Vietnam and outside.”

"We are a developing country and we have a developing film industry. This is our first film festival and we expect that we can learn from the experiences of other developed industries and help our own,” Lo Tien Tho, vice minster of culture, sports and tourism, told The Hollywood Reporter. His ministry oversees Vietnam’s film industry.

VNIFF runs through Oct. 21.

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