Vietnamese International Film Festival to Provide Close-Up of Culture

Vietnamese International Film Festival to Provide Close-Up of Culture

Thanh Van Ngo stars in “Clash,” a feature film of the Vietnamese International Film Festival that will be shown for free on UCLA Day. (Courtesy of Helena Tran)

The free festival in Ackerman will display a variety of themes in shorts and the feature film 'Clash,' reports The Daily Bruin. The UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies is an event cosponsor.

By Denise Mai for The Daily Bruin

While pho rather than film may come to mind when referring to Vietnamese culture, free campus film screenings on Thursday will shed new light on the country’s culture.

The Vietnamese International Film Festival’s UCLA Day will feature free screenings at UCLA in addition to the main festival showings at UC Irvine and in Santa Ana.

The film festival was first organized in 2003 by the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association and the UCLA-based club Vietnamese Language & Culture.

The short films and feature film to be shown during UCLA Day were specifically chosen by a screening committee consisting of festival organizers and one representative from Vietnamese Language & Culture, said third-year nursing student Jessica Do.

“I picked shorts which would appeal more to college kids, like YouTube videos,” Do said about the featured wordplay short “Ninja, Say What?” from Viet Nguyen, which has garnered close to 1.5 million views on YouTube.

Do said that the more somber topics of other films, such as refugee experiences following the Vietnam War, would be harder for students to relate to because of the generational gap. One selected short, which fulfilled her criteria of relatability, is “Dandiggity: Corner Shop Poet,” from Viet Nam Nguyen, the titular Dandiggity and a UCLA alumnus who explores the prospects of life after graduation in the short film.

“The filmmakers for the shorts are mainly second-generation Vietnamese and bring in lighter, happier themes,” said festival co-director Eileen Truong.

Truong said the way these second-generation filmmakers define themselves as Vietnamese in these shorts is especially relevant to the Vietnamese student community.

With an array of forms and themes, including an animated short based on traditional folktales, a short loosely based on a short story by a contemporary writer and a music video, the aim of the selections chosen for UCLA Day is to display the variety and versatility of modern Vietnamese filmmaking, especially to Vietnamese-American students.

“I think for the students it’s beneficial to attend the festival because they can see a wide range of films made by Vietnamese filmmakers to learn more about the culture and be inspired to follow the filmmaking path if they’re interested,” said the film festival’s associate director Helena Tran. “Especially with Vietnamese culture, art is not very supported in our tradition and culture, so we want to bridge that with these films and the festival to inspire them to follow their dreams.”

Following the screenings will be a question and answer session with the director of “Clash,” the action-packed Hollywood blockbuster look-alike that will be the sole feature film of the day. Through this discussion, Tran said students can learn more about the film and why it was made to gain a better idea of how to enter the Vietnamese film industry.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Reel Momentum,” in reference to the Vietnamese film industry as a whole and its gains in development, quality and visibility, Truong said.

“We want students to know there is a film community expanding, a legitimate Vietnamese industry that’s not just copying – brilliant filmmakers and directors whose voices are heard,” Truong said. “If they want to pursue this, we want them to know there is a way.”

Published: Wednesday, April 13, 2011