16:56′ 09/04/2007 (GMT+7)
VietNamNet Bridge – The US$1.5 million sale of Vietnamese movie The Rebels to a foreign distributor suggests to some the possibility that many more high-quality, made-in-Vietnam films can be sold abroad.

Screened for free

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One piece of good news is the sale of Chanh Phuong Film’s million-dollar movie Heroic Blood to the American distributor, Weisteins Co.

For years, many Vietnamese films such as Chi Tu Hau (Ms. Tu Hau), Canh dong hoang (Wild Field), Bao gio cho den thang 10 (When Will October Come), and Thung lung hoang vang (Deserted Valley) have been screened at international film festivals, film fairs, and during Vietnamese film weeks and cultural days abroad, receiving international attention and support. Yet, they have only been screened for free.

In recent years, several films with foreign investment like Me Thao thoi vang bong (Glorious Time in Me Thao Hamlet) have improved technically. For instance, thanks to director Viet Linh’s efforts, Glorious Time in Me Thao Hamlet was screened in several small private theatres in France. But ticket sales were insignificant.

For the past 5 years, due to import relationships with foreign film distributors, Vietnam Media Corporation has regularly sent Vietnamese films to international film festivals and fairs. The company has sold several products of TFS, VTV, and Giai Phong Film such as Vu khuc con co (Stork’s Dance), 39 do yeu (39 Degrees of Love) and Gai nhay (Dancing Girls). But as a representative of Vietnam Media Corp said, “loss has been bigger than profit.”

Technical problems

Though the themes of Vietnamese films are interesting to foreign audiences, it’s difficult to sell them abroad for many reasons, one of which is low technical quality.

It costs at least $25,000 to make a film metre that meets international technical standards. Yet, the highest production cost of a Vietnamese film produced by a state-owned company has only been VND2 billion ($125,000) so far. With low investment in technical quality, Vietnamese films abound in light, sound and image errors.

Most of the few movies successfully sold to foreign distributors had to be re-produced. Last year, Thien Ngan Film sold Dancing Girls to Sony, which had to re-do the movie’s sound and other technical parts.

A good omen

One piece of good news is the sale of Chanh Phuong Film’s million-dollar movie The Rebels to the American distributor, Weisteins Co.

To open the door to Hollywood, The Rebels’ makers including directors, producers and scriptwriters, who are all Vietnamese Americans, had to research how to make a Hollywood-style product. And they reached a final decision: an interesting script about Vietnamese martial arts, known actors such as Dustin Nguyen who starred in award-winning movie Con ca nho (Small Fish) and minimising avoidable errors like inappropriate costumes.

Thanks to a good marketing campaign, The Rebels is one of the 2 Vietnamese movies ever to have a trailer and poster on the American website IMDB.com. And on April 14, 2007, the film will be screened on the opening day of the International Vietnam Film Festival in California, the US, before being widely introduced in Vietnam and throughout the world.

With only 50 major theatre complexes concentrated in urban areas to serve a population of over 80 million, the domestic market for Vietnamese films isn’t big. Thus, many producers don’t expect to cover production costs by distributing their products in Vietnam.

A representative of Vietnam Media Corp said, “The goal of exporting films is an incentive for Vietnamese producers to invest more in their films.” Most of the films which have been produced in 2007 received unusually high investment. For instance, Phuoc Sang Film has spent more than US $1 million on modern production equipment, and new studios like Anh Viet Green Post that meet world technical standards are being built.

(Source: SGGP)