November 29, 2020

Fulbright Mini Fall Film Festival: Authentic insights into the Vietnamese film industry

November 29, 2020

Fulbright Mini Fall Film Festival (FMFFF) is an initiative by Fulbright’s Career Development department, where students get to experience a wide range of high-quality Vietnamese movies, from action blockbusters to independent art films. It is much more than just an entertaining experience, in fact, the festival offered students an opportunity to directly discuss with and learn from the movies’ directors and producers. As the driving force of contemporary Vietnamese cinema, these young and promising filmmakers shared their insights into the art of filmmaking, as well as development prospects of the industry.

The festival included five screening events of some contemporary motion pictures that have attracted significant interest from Vietnamese youth, followed by in-person discussions with the moviemakers. Fulbright warmly welcomed director Tran Thanh Huy and actor Wowy Nguyen of “Rom” (the box office sensation that brought in 55 billion VND in the first 10 days of screening), director Trinh Dinh Le Minh and actor Le Cong Hoang from “Goodbye, mother”, and the crew of “Saigon in the rain“: director-writer Le Minh Hoang, director of photography Nguyen Khac Nhat, director of music Pham Hai Au, producer Cao Thuy Nhi and female lead Ho Thu Anh. The festival’s “menu” also included a series of experimental films by director Mzung Nguyen, and a close-up meeting with Thierry Nguyen, founder of Studio Bad Clay, the wizard behind the spectacular visual effects of Vietnamese blockbusters like “Hai Phuong”, “The Immortal”, “Sweet 20″… and “Trang Ti”, the period fantasy coming to theaters next year.

Founder of Bad Clay Studio – Thiery Nguyen taking photos with Fulbright students

At the FMFFF, Fulbright students raised questions about the art of filmmaking, from cinematic techniques, artistic philosophies, to the development prospects of the Vietnamese film industry. Guest speakers’ stories about their passionate yet challenging journey with filmmaking inspired students to further explore “the seventh art”.

The story of Trinh Dinh Le Minh was particularly thought-provoking.  His first movie, “Goodbye, mother” became the proud representative of Vietnamese independent films to compete at many prestigious film festivals, including Busan International Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival, and San Diego International Film Festival, etc. The movie, an emotional LGBT romance with a highlight on family love, received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the audience. For Minh, it is the fruition of over ten years of delicate preparation, where he worked on multiple short films and documentaries to gain experience and hone his skills.

From insiders’ perspective, the directors also shared many poignant remarks and behind-the-scenes narratives that cannot be seen on the silver screen. Their sharing encourages students to be more appreciative of and tolerant with cinematographic works, and at the same time it opens up new layers of meaning of the film, “Easter eggs” that viewers may have missed after the first screening.

In fact, for a feature-length movie to come to life, the crew has to spend months, even years pursuing the project. For example, “Rom“, the first Vietnamese film to win “New Currents” (the highest award at Busan International Film Festival, Korea) took eight years before finally being premiered to the public. Yet from viewers’ standpoint, anyone can give judgments and criticisms on cinematic works.

Fulbright students experiencing the film project “The Light after Life” directed by Mzung Nguyen

“Before joining the session with the crew, I had prepared so many questions for them about things that I found inadequate or confusing in the movie. However, not until I listened to the filmmakers’ confidences did I really understand how much effort they invested in the movie. Thanks to that, I feel more respectful of their hard work and enthusiasm, and start to see cinematographic works under a different light,” confessed Dang Anh Kiet, a freshman at Fulbright.

Filmmaking is a creative arts industry that combines a variety of expertise, from historical-cultural studies, anthropology, project management, finance-investment, or even engineering and computer science… For that very reason, in the multidisciplinary liberal education environment at Fulbright, The Fall Film Festival is an opportunity for students to explore a wide range of career options that both satisfy their passion for movies and employ their unique abilities and strengths. At the same time, interaction with students is a refreshing experience for directors and filmmakers that allow them to have a better understanding of the young generation, the core audience of contemporary motion pictures.

Director Tran Thanh Huy of “Rom” shared that he was unable to contain his excitement when faced with sharp questions from students.

“90% of Fulbright students at the festival have seen the film and have questions and hypotheses that strike directly at the heart of the film. Their vision gained my respect. Sometimes during the talk, the students had me and Wowy on the edge of our seats, so much so that at the last minute, I was forced to say something I never disclosed about ‘Rom’ before, even during the PR trip for the movie!”, Tran Thanh Huy shared.

A photo director Tran Thanh Huy shared on his Facebook page after attending Fulbright Mini Fall Film Festival

With the success of the first mini film festival, Career Development at Fulbright is harboring more exciting ideas to enhance and enrich student experience. Mr. Vincent Pham, Manager of Partnership Development, who is in charge of the Career at Fulbright says:

“We hope that the Fulbright Mini Fall Film Festival is not only an interesting recreational activity for students who love movies, but also a useful source of information for student’s career development. On the other hand, we are also working hard to build a network of moviemakers – potential employers with students at Fulbright, to explore opportunities for cooperation and recruitment in the future.”

Anh Thư

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