Vietnam International Film Festival Wraps in Hanoi

Boo Junfeng's "Sandcastle" Takes Home Top Awards

HANOI – The Vietnam International Film Festival wrapped up its first edition Thursday night with an awards ceremony that saw first-time director Boo Junfeng’s Sandcastle take three prizes, including Best Feature Film and Best Director.

The event concluded with a 90-minute live broadcast of the awards show, featuring many of Vietnam’s top film stars, including actress Do Thi Hai Yen (The Quiet American; Floating Lives), at the National Convention Center in southern Hanoi.

Awarding Sandcastle its first prize of the night, competition jury member and Venice Film Festival director Marco Mueller said “Boo’s film doesn’t look like a first film, it is so self-assured,” before presenting him the Best Director plaque.

Director and jury president Phillip Noyce (Salt) said that the panel’s decision for Best Feature Film was “unanimous,” adding that the “everyone had a different take on the movie, every choice by the director was so deliberate, the mise-en-scene made by the director, with great performances by the lead actor and actress.” He then presented Boo with his second award of the night.

Boo also received the NETPAC Jury Award for Sandcastle as a first-time director. “It feels like a whole new ballgame,” he told The Hollywood Reporter after the ceremony. The film had previously screened at other festivals including Cannes, Toronto and Pusan.

Boo’s triple win led the way as mostly international entries took the top awards Malaysian-born actor and singer Ah Niu won Best Actor for his performance in Ice Kacang Puppy Love, which he also wrote and directed. Hong Kong’s Fiona Sit shared the Best Actress Award with Vietnam’s Nhat Kim Anh. Sit starred in Barbara Wong’s “Break Up Club,” with Nhat’s performance in The Fate of a Songstress in Thang Long cited by Noyce as “extremely beautiful, [it] revealed parts of Vietnamese history that we as outsiders were not aware.”

Vietnam won the other major award, Best Documentary, for director Nguyen Thi Kim Hai’s Always Beside You, which follows a Vietnamese mother as she cares for her three-year-old son who is afflicted with leukemia.

The five-day event was not without some bumps. Screenings of the festival’s 68 films were shown at three venues spread out across Hanoi, with times seemingly fluid. Some filmmakers attending the festival complained they didn’t know when their films were being shown, or that they had arrived at screenings only to find they had been moved or rescheduled.

Still, most attendees were in agreement that the event was a success and hoped it would become a regular event. “This could really be a boost for young creativity in the region,” said Venice’s Mueller, who expressed hope that VNIFF could become the top film festival in Southeast Asia. “I think they made a very bold move, starting it was a very clear step, and it could prevail on major film events in the Far East.”

While organizers left the door open for an annual event, they indicated that the plan is for the next Vietnam festival to take place in 2012 in Ho Chi Minh City.