Wednesday, 22/11/2023 09:23

Veteran script writer hopes high-grossing movies will be honoured at National Film Festival

Chairwoman of Hà Nội Cinematography Association and script writer Bành Mai Phương. Photo courtesy of Bành Mai Phương

The 23rd Việt Nam National Film Festival is taking place from November 21 to 25 in Đà Lạt City, the Central Highland Province of Lâm Đồng. 

Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Bình chats with veteran script writer Bành Mai Phương, chairwoman of Hà Nội Cinematography Association, about the Việt Nam film industry. 

Does Hà Nội Cinematography Association have a film competing at the festival?

No, we don't have. The association has Sao Khuê Studio but it has not yet received financial resources to produce film.

Last year, we produced two documentaries with socialised money. But the documentaries are not sent to the festival. We are planning to carry out film and documentary making projects with socialised money. 

However, some of the association's members working at film studios have films at the festival this year. Hopefully, Hà Nội association will have its own film at the festival next time.

Sixteen motion pictures vie for Gold Lotus Awards at the festival this year. How many pictures have you seen and what could you say about them?

I have seen 13 pictures. I think that the festival this year sees a large number of good films competing.

High-grossing movies are made with the express purpose of affecting behaviour and conveying family message. These movies have had social effects on a large scale and it is really a good sign for Vietnamese cinema. 

Movies by State-owned studios are also good, including historical themed films. The filmmakers make efforts to produce good films with limited money from State budget, and these movies provoke strong emotions. 

Which movie do you like the most? Can you predict the winner?

I like quite a few movies. It is difficult to choose one movie as my favourite because each of them is different and they still have a few imperfections. 

Most importantly, the movies are attractive to convey positive social meaningful messages such as Con Nhót Mót Chồng (First Look), Đất Rừng Phương Nam (A Song of The South), Nhà Bà Nữ (The House of No Man) and Người Vợ Cuối Cùng (The Last Wife).

The festival's winners will be chosen by the jury. According to the organisation, the jury includes veteran filmmakers, writers and people working in the cinema industry. 

I don't know whether or not the jury will listen to public opinion for reference to choose the winners. I hope that the high-grossing movies will be honoured at the festival. 

You are a veteran scriptwriter, could you talk about the role of a scriptwriter in a movie?

My father is scriptwriter Bành Bảo. I remember a funny story that he always told his students. He went to a film college in France and he saw a slogan Director is God hanging in front of Directing Department's door. He felt self-pity. But right after that, he was very pleased seeing another slogan hanging in front of the Screenwriting Department's door "Screenwriters are the creators of God."

It shows the important role of screenwriting in a movie. Can't make bricks without straw. I don't mention whether a script is good or bad; it already has the ideological themes, characters, plot and situations, and then the director and producer will develop the script with their creativity.

I highly appreciate the scripts of the high-grossing movies. Their stories are good and attractive. I think that a bad story cannot help the movie to lure audience to the cinema. 

In short, good scripts will help to advance Vietnamese cinema. 

Is there a lack of good scripts for filmmakers? What do you think is needed to have good scripts?

Development of Vietnamese cinema recently shows that it doesn't lack good scripts. The concept of deficiency and excess are no longer as clear as in the previous period, because there are good movies being shown in the cinemas. 

The point is how to make a good movie from a good script. Script writing camps and contests have been held by the State. But production and distribution are not synchronised so the good scripts are not on paper only. That is why the lack of good scripts is always an issue to be discussed. 

Meanwhile, non-Stated owned studios and producers are doing this well. In fact, script writers often only sell their scripts to private studios which have enough money to make a good movie with their scripts as they want to. 

So it is difficult to say if the Vietnamese cinema industry is lacking good scripts or not. 

In my opinion, one of the ways to get a good script is to tighten the relationship between literature and cinema. That will help both Vietnamese literature and cinema develop sustainably.

Literary adaptation is an important trend in the world of cinema, with two directions. One is adapting literary masterpieces, and the second is adapting outstanding works from famous writers.

However, for a long time in Vietnamese literature, there have been almost no writers whose works are both popular and suitable for movie production.

Meanwhile, a number of movies adapted from popular literary works have been criticised and slandered by many, including those who have not seen the movies. This is not fair for the director or producer. 

The audience has the right to give their opinion, to debate and to like or dislike movies. But if public opinion is extreme and imposed, the only way for filmmakers and artists to avoid being criticised is not to do anything and not have any more works. At that time, Vietnamese audiences will be the most disadvantaged.

You were born to an art family. Your father and your uncle were popular script writers of the cinema industry. Did they have an impact on your career?

Certainly, there is a great influence because they are my teachers at Hà Nội Academy of Theatre and Cinema. We are colleagues at Việt Nam Feature Film Studio. 

I still remember the story they told me when I was small. In 1967 after they graduated in Script Writing at the Russian State University of Cinematography, they were sent to Vĩnh Linh battle in the central province of Quảng Trị.   

Their lives were threatened by the US military's bombing. They miraculously survived a bomb attack. They thought that if they did not live to return all their knowledge they learned and the professional experience they had would be lost forever. 

They decided to choose one of their children to follow in their father's footsteps to continue the flow that they worked so hard to start.

Up to now, I still feel very lucky to be the child who was chosen to teach and to light the fire of passion that my father and my uncle nurtured with so much enthusiasm.

My family has a movie crew including my husband, a cameraman who studied at the same university with my father in Russia and People's Artist sound director Bành Bắc Hải. Hải was also trained in Russia. 

Everything I can do today, no matter how small, is all thanks to the teaching of my father and my uncle. That reminds me to always keep the family's tradition with all gratitude and respect. VNS

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