Romantic comedy follows two strangers across Vietnam

October 1, 2006

1735 Km (2005)


BY LAWRENCE SUMULONG

When Kay Nguyen ’07 came back to campus after taking a year off, she had gained a new appreciation of what Grinnell meant to her. Of course, she had also gained credentials as the screenwriter and assistant director of a feature film.

A year after her return, after journeying multiple times along a route up and down Vietnam through five major cities from Hanoi to Saigon and back, Nguyen finally has a chance to show off the fruits of her labor.

Her cinematic brainchild 1735 Km has its U.S. premier on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Cinema. Ngugen will speak at a reception in the Harris lobby at 7:00.

Nguyen signed on with the film when she was approached by a fledgling production company, Ky Dong Productions, looking for aspiring young artists interested in making films.

The company had discovered her through film reviews she had written for English and Vietnamese publications. They asked her to write a screenplay, and she accepted.

According to Nguyen, 1735 Km is a romantic comedy following the scenic journey of two strangers, a male and a female, stranded together and penniless in the northern city of Hanoi, desperate to find their way home to the southern city of Saigon. The film’s title refers to the distance the two characters traverse.

For the first-time screenwriter, the working process was an artistic journey, but also one that led to realizations about the commercial aspect of film.

“Film is a very funny product of this century,” said Nguyen. “It’s the very mix between money and art … you have to make money to make films. And sometimes as you go along, the executive producer gets to say a lot and they usually control the artistic things.”

“Basically, the whole [cinematic] production is a very unglamorous process and it takes a lot of hard work and not just … expressing your own artistic ideas,” she said. “I was very lucky to have the director tutor me in writing and also the politics of the whole thing.”

Nguyen found surprising links between her yearlong adventure and her time in an Iowa classroom.

“You have to take a step back in order to appreciate something … and so I took a year off and while I was working I constantly found that all of the skills, the way of thinking, even the pleasure of working was actually determined, largely, by the Grinnell experience,” she said. “Anyone who passed the Grinnell ordeal … [is] equipped with something very precious.”

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