Sunday, April 18, 2010

Phil at Cinema Symposium 5

Dodd Hall in UCLA (pictured left) is where the Cinema Symposium 5 took place today and where I learned a bit more about the dynamics of Vietnamese Cinema. For some years now, a viable option for bilingual Vietnamese-American filmmakers has been to go back to Vietnam to launch or revitalize their cinematic careers.

Evidence of this is especially true of the recent success of such films as Journey From The Fall, The Rebel, and most recently SDAFF 2009 selection The Legend Is Alive.
The Symposium was presented by the Vietnamese Language and Culture and the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters
Association which also put together the Vietnamese International Film Festival (VIFF).

The panel discussion was centered around how to make it in Vietnamese Cinema (the title of the event was Operation Greenlight) and the changes and challenges that are presented to today's Vietnamese American filmmakers. Challenges that were brought up were funds (which seem to always be a challenge), recognition of cultural identity, and the growing relationship between Vietnam and the migrant communities here in the United States.

The in-house panelists were varied
in their experience and their backgrounds. Mark Tran (SDAFF 10 selection All About Dad and Emerging Filmmaker Award Winner), Kieu Chinh (Joy Luck Club and SDAFF 2005
selection Journey From The Fall), Danny Do (Saigon Television and Behind The Scenes for The Rebel), Minh Duc Nguyen (Independent Editor
and Touch(2010)), Nghiem-Minh Nguyen-Vo (Buffalo Boy and Don't Look Back), and AFI Program Graduate
Nadine Truong (one of only three females in the program with 2 thesis projects: Eggbaby and Shadow Man (2010 LA Asian Pacific Film Festival selections)).

From "new kids on the block" to experienced professionals, the panel was engaging and very entertaining at times for the audience and the panelists combined.

Questions about representation of Asians in the media, to how to finance a film, and how to get distribution were all discussed among many other subjects to a crowd of about 80 interested and engaged students and filmmakers.

Then after the in-house panel, one of the directors of the symposium, Lee Ngo, Skyped in none other than Dustin Nguyen!

Dustin, along with Charlie Nguyen and Irene Trinh, talked about their latest collaboration Fool For Love, which features Dustin in a romantic comedy, which he admitted is quite different from the recent action films (The Rebel and Legend is Alive) he has been a part of in Vietnam. They announced that the release of the film in Vietnam is April 23. The film looked pretty funny I must say.

Tammy Nguyen Lee, who was just in SDAFF 2009 for her film Operation Babylift also Skyped in (from Chicago O'Hare airport?!) to talk about documentary filmmaking and how it felt to start her own production company. The crowd really seemed to like the Skype interviews, yet were still shy to ask questions (not as shy to the in-house panel).

The night was capped off with a short film screening session of 5 finalists for the "Hidden Genius: A Short Film Competition" program which was inaugurated for the symposium. The audience was asked to vote on a favorite and Mark Tran and Danny Do served as judges for a jury prize final vote. The jury winner took home $500 (LoopLoop from 2008 directed by Patrick Bergeron) and the Audience Award winner took home $250 (Thinking of You, directed by Huy Quang Vu, who was there but was asked for his ID since no one had met him, and no one expected him there (kinda awkward, but he got $250!)). All in all the short film competition was a nice touch on the night and allowed for Vietnamese talent to be seen.

Co-Directors Lee Ngo and Daniel Pham did a nice job in getting the show going and Lee in particular moderated the panels very well.

There was also good snackage, and time to hang out with the panelists and other future filmmakers. Although Mark Tran was a little beat after the panel!

The symposium exposed me to an ever-growing and excited filmmaking base here in California; the Vietnamese filmmaking community is really trying to make strides and make it in this very difficult yet amazing industry. Overcoming cultural, financial, and generational barriers has been a part of the experience of all ethnic filmmakers, but for today it was all about Vietnamese film and its future.

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