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Mar 20, 2022 / 17:18

A different Hanoi from the perspective of talented filmmakers

The “Like the Moon in a night sky” film project presents a number of interesting documentaries, short and experimental films on Hanoi.

Through films of high artistic value, the audience can better visualize Hanoi in the past, and at the same time discover the “hidden corners” of Hanoi in the present.

Hanoi through the cinematic perspective

 Hanoi youth in the 1990s, A scene from the movie "Please, forgive me!" by Luu Trong Ninh. 

On March 19, the experimental film “Blue/Green - Night Films in Hanoi” by Vu Thi Lan Huong was streamed online on the YouTube channel of the Centre for Assistance and Development of Movie Talents (TPD).

The 10-minute-long film is a kaleidoscope that reveals surprising resonances from many currents in Vietnamese cinema. Here, the night is a place that evokes endless inspirations and analogies.

The film screening travels into short films with distinctive characters, stories, and practices of storytelling.

An unknown robot. A film crew making an advertisement. A train going back to someone’s hometown. A dancing Mr. Teu. A university student feeling lost in melancholy. Lenin Park on a full moon night. A wandering dog. A story about a girl working at a bar. A Cai luong folk-singing stage play. Early morning in Hanoi.

They are all the “intricate impressions from a reverberating supersonic assemblage of memories,” according to young film director Lan Huong

Earlier, on March 18, at l’Institut français de Hanoi- L’Espace, there was a screening of two documentaries, both filmed in Hanoi, some 60 years apart: Hanoi Landscape by Bui Dinh Hac and Nguyen Dang Bay, made in 1958, and “Pomelo” (Buoi Road) by Tran Phuong Thao and Swann Dubus, shot from 2016 to 2018.

According to local film experts, from the eyes of Bui Dinh Hac and Nguyen Dang Bay, Hanoi is a promise: a Hanoi after Dien Bien Phu victory in 1954. Under the “sky of freedom”, as the narration described, panoramas of the capital’s renowned landmarks unfold like a series of postcards. A harmonious world where nature and heritage of then and now coexist. In long shots, at a small scale, people can be seen dressing neatly, working and playing with delight. Hope is an obvious choice. A sense of future glimmers amidst vast expanses of open space.

Almost 60 years later, the footage is now in color. In “Pomelo”, too, future peeks out from openings, from gaps. Gaps whose presence accounts for the emergence of a new construction site. Openings that mark the falling down of houses. The urban façade is of infinite thickness, constantly punctured only to be filled again. Such reestablishment is the world of the demolition workers, of scrap metal gleaners venturing from remote locales, of laboring hands, of rubble.

The "Pomelo" by Tran Phuong Thao and Swann Dubus: The scrap-collection women and the house demolition workers show the filmmakers what it means to live in the city during 2016 -2018. 

According to visual artist Truong Que Chi, curator of the film project “Like the Moon in a night sky”, in “Pomelo”, through their quotidian doings, the scrap-collection women and the house demolition workers show the filmmaker what it means to live in this city.

After 10 years of experience, with the filmmaker’s camera, there’s no longer necessarily an enthusiasm for bridging distances. The relationship with the ones she films has also changed, no longer having a sense of eagerness even in close-up shots.

“The camera knows it cannot be involved nor change things; thus it looks for the right vantage point, neither above nor below, not too close and not too far away. A world of darkness surrounded by construction materials,” she stated.

“The brutality, nevertheless, cannot destroy tenderness and humor. And that’s how the people captured in the film live together within this state of things falling down,” she added.

Space for young art-lovers

Unlike international blockbusters being shown in modern cinemas, old films in the project “Like the moon in a night sky” are shown in small movie rooms with outdated projection equipment.

The movies like “Memoryland” (Bui Kim Quy), “Money, Money!” (Tran Vu - Nguyen Huu Luyen), “We come into life” (Siu Pham), “Blue/Green - Night Films in Hanoi”, among others, however, still attract many young art-lovers in Hanoi.

“These are precious state-owned or private films that are rarely shown. Moreover, they all have high artistic value,” an audience explained.

Thanks to the young curators with daring perspectives from TPD, the film project “Like the moon in a night sky” has created a community of movie lovers. Together, they explore, research and analyze the value of Vietnam’s precious cinematic works that are being forgotten.

An old house in Hanoi. A scene from Vuong Duc's movie “The Missing Object” by Vuong Duc.

According to TPD Center Director Nguyen Hoang Phuong, over the years, young people have gradually lost communication, connection, and discussion, or specifically, they lack a “cinema community”.

“I believe that cinema can help heal people together as well as give them strength to overcome life’s difficulties and challenges,” he said.

Launched in 2020, the project “Like the Moon in a night sky: A perspective of Vietnamese Cinema” is a series of events exploring Vietnamese cinema's past, present and future, a pathway from today into film heritage.

This year, the 3rd “Like the Moon in a night sky” project will take place until April 3. It is organized by the Centre for Assistance and Development of Movie Talents (TPD), in close cooperation with l’Institut français de Hanoi - L'Espace, and with the support of the Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam, Purin Pictures, UNESCO Office in Vietnam, Vietnam Film Institute, British Council in Vietnam COMPLEX 01, Union Hub and Tach Spaces.

Some outstanding Vietnamese films that will be screened with English subtitles include “The Missing Object” by Vuong Duc (4.30pm & 7pm on March 24, L’Espace); “We come into life” by Siu Pham (7.30pm on March 31, BHD Star – Vincom Pham Ngoc Thach) and “Owls and Sparrows” by Stphane Gauger (7pm, on April 2, L’Espace).