By Kay Johnson, dpa
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Hanoi (dpa)- The term "fast-food restaurant" took a new twist Thursday when hundreds of eager customers and curiosity seekers jammed into the lunchtime opening of the first KFC restaurant in communist Vietnam's capital.

The line to the counter was so long Thursday that Phan Huyen Trang, 26, had to wait 25 minutes for her meal of 11-secret-spices chicken, cole slaw and mashed potatoes and gravy.

"You have to wait for a longer time to have a KFC meal than to have pho," Trang complained, referring to the Vietnamese national dish of beef soup with rice noodles.

"I just come to see what it's like," she admitted, adding. "It's not as good as I thought. The chicken is too dry. It's not as good as Vietnamese dishes."

The company formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken already has 20 outlets in southern Ho Chi Minh City, making it one of the few international fast-food brands to compete with the country's wide range of street vendors and small shops.

But Hanoi, the communist capital heavily bombed by US warplanes during the Vietnam War, has never had a major American chain restaurant until now.

Even ubiquitous Starbucks and McDonalds have failed to enter the market, which is dominated by local chains such as Trung Nguyen and Highlands coffee shops and a burger franchise called "McHanh's."

That may change soon, since Vietnam's long-awaited entry into the World Trade Organization, expected later this year or in early 2007, will pry open up Vietnam's domestic service markets to more foreign competition.

In the meantime, the opening of a well-known US restaurant – strategically located on busy Huynh Thuc Khang Street, close to a popular children's playground, a golf driving range and a large cinema complex – proved a novelty.

"You see, there are many people … we will have to expand," said Nguyen Chi Kien, deputy general director of KFC Vietnam. The company plans to open three more Hanoi outlets by year's end.

Whether American-style fast food will continue to appeal remains to be seen. A typical KFC meal, priced at around 3 dollars, is about triple the price of a bowl of pho or bun cha, another popular street food made of grilled pork, rice noodles and fresh greens.

"I think there are so many people here today because they come for curiosity," said customer Vu Khanh Trinh, 29. He said he had already tried KFC chicken in Bangkok and said he liked it.

"You cannot compare KFC with Vietnamese traditional dishes. Each has its own tastes," he said. "But honestly, I prefer Vietnamese food."

Other customers, though, were impressed.

"The food is very good. It tastes different and delicious," enthused 16-year-old Vu Viet Anh. " I think I can eat KFC every day."

Health advocates might not advise that, though. Last week, KFC was named in a US lawsuit by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which said the hydrogenated cooking oil the company uses contributes to obesity and heart disease.

Vietnamese customers Thursday seemed unconcerned.

"I'm not afraid of getting fat, because I'm too thin now,"said construction worker Vu Cam Trang, 28. "I hope other foreign food chains like McDonald or Starbucks will enter Vietnam soon so that we will have chances to try many different kinds of food."

15:48' 22/06/2006 (GMT+7)

The life of one of Vietnam's most outstanding intelligence agents Hoang Minh Dao (1923-1969) will be portrayed in the series Con Duong Sang (Bright Way), scheduled to be shot at the end of this month.

Shaken, not stirred: A series about secret agent Hoang Minh Dao will be shot this month.

Born in the northern province of Quang Ninh, Dao (real name Dao Phuc Loc) had a harsh childhood. He was kicked out of his home by his stepmother and his father, a drunken merchant, who was always away from home and could do nothing to help him and his sisters.

Later, after working as a revolutionary liaison Dao became head of the army intelligence office of the military committee of the resistance force against the French in 1946.

He later held important positions of the resistance force during the first and second Indochina wars, including Commissar of the Special Task Force in Sai Gon (former name of HCM City).

Dao's family could not find his tomb, located by the Vam Co Dong River in the southern province of Dong Nai, until 30 years after his death in 1969. The details of his life remain fairly sketchy, even though the country has been united for 31 years.

"Dao's life is worth praising," said war veteran Pham Dan, Dao's comrade.

The film director Pham Viet Thanh, who started to study the secret agent's life four years ago, said the more he learned about Dao the more he wanted to make a film of his life.

The ten-episode series is based on the memories of Dao's children and comrades. These sources are an advantage but also a challenge for the filmmaker.

"Some of Dao's comrades, now retired senior army officers and officials, are advisors to the film. That means I have to try my best to make the film as true to life as possible to meet the living witnesses' expectations," Thanh said.

He went further to say that the series Bright Way was a full portrait of the secret man since his childhood.

"I will not make Dao out to be a hero at birth. He had a life like many others that included happiness, sorrow, loss, and loneliness."

Young actor Xuan Bac was chosen to play Dao because apart from sharing a similar appearance the director believes Bac is a talented actor who can express the sophisticated emotions of the secret service man.

Bright Way will be completed in six months and will be televised on Hanoi Television as well as local television stations throughout the country. The film is a joint production of the Hanoi Audio Visual Company and Quang Ninh Television.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Vietnam shorts

June 23, 2006

Vietnam shorts

The Malaysian Film Club and the Vietnam Cinema Association is proud to present “10 months 10 films,” a programme of shorts made in the Centre for Development and Assistance of Movie Talents (TPD) by young talented filmmakers.  

The TPD was established in 2002 to assist and develop movie talents and other cinematic activities for the Vietnamese cinema. “10 months 10 films,” is one of the projects designed to provide technical filmmaking expertise and know-how to budding filmmakers. This is combined with the “Master Class” project, in which the most promising talents are guided by famed Vietnamese director Tran Anh Hung (Cyclo, Vertical Rays of the Sun) to create professional shorts, worthy of festival attention. 

You can catch Mossy Courtyard by Vuong Minh Viet (above) and Nguyen Ha Phong’s Terrace (below) during the “10 months 10 films programme” at Help Institute on June 24.

The “10 months 10 films” programme will have two screening sessions on June 24 at the Theaterette at HELP Institute in Kuala Lumpur. The first session starts from 3.30pm to 5pm, and the second one starts from 5.30pm to 7pm. Admission is free

The first session features five films made in 2004 by five young filmmakers. This programme is 96minutes long. The films featured will be Vuong Minh Viet's Mossy Courtyard (A war veteran assists in the games of some children in his courtyard); Red Happiness by Luong Dinh Dung (About a blind beggar desperately in love with a young prostitute), Another War by Nguyen Thu Thu and Nguyen Manh Ha (A young woman with a scarred face has involuntary desires for her older brother. To get away, she leaves for the sea); Nguyen Hoang Diep's The Fifth Season (The sensual desires of a young woman, expressed through her husband’s laundry); and Mattress by Bui Kim Quy (A cyclo driver finds a mattress and brings it home. The presence of the mattress brings happiness, but also a fair share of unluckiness.) 

The second session will feature six films made in 2005 by six young filmmakers. This programme is 86 minutes long and features: 

Red Ants by Pham Hai Anh (Three women in a house full of red ants come to mutual sympathy); The Paranoia by Vinh Khuong (Only after his death, a paranoid artist understands that love always exists. The painter is also played by the director.); Knocking on Zen Gate by Tran Que Ngoc (A girl goes to the pagoda to test the venerable monk. Finally, she herself is enlightened); Who Make Me Up When The Sun Goes Down by Le Thao Huyen (About an old man in solitude.); Nguyen Quynh Trang's White Storks (An innocent young lass is kept in her house whenever her mother, a prostitute, goes out) and Terrace by Nguyen Ha Phong (About an old man and his son on the terrace).  

Director Nguyen Ha Phong, will be present at the screening for questions and answers.  

For more information, please contact: Julie-Anne Chong at 016-9158974.

15:46' 09/06/2006 (GMT+7)

It's not difficult for a visitor to Hue these days to see a traditional Vietnamese ao dai. However, the hundreds of ao dai designs featured in a glamorous performance at Hue Festival 2006 last night intrigued visitors.

The innovative ao dai with subtly different designs and glamorous colours were worn by beautiful fashion models from Hanoi, HCM City and Hue on the poetic Huong River under the glittering lights of a firework-lit night.

Entitled Colour of the Time, the performance featured works from 10 prominent Vietnamese designers. The 300 designs were inspired by the central city's antique charm, picturesque landscapes, and the images of birds, plants and flowers.

The collections included: Thu Giang's Phoenix collection; Anh Vu's Patterns from the Royal Palace, Xuan Thu's Dragon and Cloud, Cong Khanh's Patterns on Pottery-Porcelain, and Minh Hanh's Hue Citadel Gates.

All showed innovation in the Vietnamese designers' use of paint, embroidery and other special embellishments. And each collection was woven on high-tech Toan Thinh silk.

Accompanied by the music of Trinh Cong Son, the performance started impressively when each designer sat with 25 fashion models on the same sampan floating along the river to greet the spectators.

Surrounding each sampan were 10 little boats, which created a special stage for the performance. On land, 50 girls in traditional ao dai drove their bicycles leisurely along Trang Tien Bridge as the glittering firework performance was launched by French artist Pierre Alain Hubert.

According to designer Minh Hanh, the general director of the performance, the sampan on the Huong River and the Trang Tien vaporous bridge were two typical images of the city and that was why they were selected as the main "stages" for the event.

This was the second time an ao dai event of this magnitude was launched at the biannual Hue Festival, but what made this performance groundbreaking was the special stages and the combination of modern and traditional elements in each collection.

As most of the designers were also artists, they viewed the ao dai as a sort of canvas for their art.

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(Source: VNS – VNN)

10:08' 22/06/2006 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet – A series of activities with participation of overseas Vietnamese will be held in Vietnam from mid-July through September, according to Vice Chairman of the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese, Tran Quang Hoan.

Mr Hoan said that 44 outstanding young overseas Vietnamese from 20 countries will join the annual Vietnam Summer Camp which will run from July 18 to August 2.

The Camp will include sightseeing trips around historic sites and landscapes, exchanges between young OV and homeland youths, and talks about the nation's history, culture, land, people and President Ho Chi Minh.

Campers will join the "Green Summer" volunteer programme initiated by the HCM City Youth Union. The programme attracts students and young people nationwide to join in social activities, such as cleaning the environment, tutoring poor children, and raising funds for disadvantaged people.

The Committee for Overseas Vietnamese will organise another summer camp named "Return to the roots" for all overseas Vietnamese who wish to return the homeland. The first camp will be held from August 8 through the 20, and more than 30 overseas Vietnamese from six countries have registered for the event.

An overseas Vietnamese business conference will be held in central city of Da Nang on September 21-22, and expected to attract 100 business people. The event's topic is the "Upholding potential capacity of overseas Vietnamese entrepreneurs in the nation's construction, development and international economic integration".

The conference will help overseas Vietnamese learn more about Party and the State policies to encourage them contribute more to their homeland. It will provide a forum for overseas Vietnamese entrepreneurs to share experiences of their businesses in Vietnam, and for local authorities to understand their wishes and aspirations.

Mr Hoan said that the conference is significant, particularly since Vietnam is on the threshold of joining the WTO, as overseas Vietnamese businessmen will serve as a bridge linking domestic and foreign partners. At the conference, a board will be created to work for the establishment of setting up an association of overseas Vietnamese.

On the occasion of National Day, September 2, a delegation of outstanding 40 Vietnamese from Laos, Thailand and Cambodia will tour historic sites in Hanoi, Hue, and HCM City from August 15 to 29.

(Source: TTXVN)