The friendship associations with Vietnam of Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland on April 26 issued a statement to support a call asking the US to show responsibility to Vietnam for their spraying of deadly herbicides during the war in Vietnam.

The move was made on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Anti-chemical Weapons Treaty (April 29, 1997) and also the International Day for Victims of Chemical Weapons.

In the statement, the friendship associations called upon the US to pay compensation for the continued suffering of the people and environment of Vietnam.

Lawyers representing the AO victims provided factual and scientific evidence regarding the effects of as many as 72 million litres of herbicides, of which the AO/dioxin accounting for 41.6 million litres, that the US troops had sprayed over Vietnam during the period between 1961-1971. (VNA)

Custom-made in Saigon

May 9, 2007

By Naomi Lindt
Budget Travel
(Budget Travel Onlineexternal link) — At Ben Thanh market in Saigon (even locals don’t call it Ho Chi Minh City), saleswomen perch atop piles of fabrics that they sell inexpensively by the meter. Customers are encouraged to take their purchases to nearby tailors, who charge as little as $6 for a pair of pants. As with everything in life, you get what you pay for: hems fall and zippers break. If you want to have clothing custom made in Saigon, these six shops are a better bet.

Tricia & Verona

Opened a year ago by sisters Tuyen Tran and Vy Tran (who anglicized their names to Tricia and Verona to convey their Western sense of style), the store’s crisp white walls, low lacquer tables and contemporary light fixtures make it feel more like a boutique than a workshop. Specialties include wool coats (from $80), slacks (from $30), and muslin tops (from $17). There’s also a selection of off-the-rack items that can be copied, fitted or adapted. The average turnaround time is two days, including fittings. 39 Dong Du St., D1, 011-84/8-824-4556.

Si Hoang

With its tight bodice, side slits and flowing pants, it’s no wonder the flattering ao dai (pronounced “ow yai”) is traditional dress for Vietnamese women. Saigon is crowded with shops that sell cheap versions to tourists, but locals go to Si Hoang, where the costume is taken so seriously that historical samples are displayed in glass cases. A plain silk ao dai costs $65 and is made in a day; ones fashioned with heavier fabric (hand-painted silk, beaded velvet) start at $150 and need a week or more. A free fashion show and tea salon — with music and singing — takes place every night but Tuesday at 8 p.m. 36-38 Ly Tu Trong St., D1, 011-84/8-822-3100.

Minh Khoa

Fashion designer Minh Khoa, who’s married to one of the country’s top models, looks to his dreams for inspiration. “I fantasize about a modern, strong woman and then I create a spectrum of looks to dress her up,” he says. His formal wear — which ranges from sequined ao dai to silk wedding gowns — has been spotted at fancy parties across Asia. The racks hold one of each of his current designs, but he’ll also work with customers to create something unique. A silk shift runs $110 and requires two days; elaborate dresses start at $700 and take several weeks. 39 Dong Khoi St., D1, 011-84/8-823-2302.

Tailor Nhut

Ignore the bare walls, tile floors, and open shelves crammed full of books and material: When it comes to getting quality men’s apparel made in Saigon, there’s nowhere better than Nhut. The suits, shirts, tuxedos and overcoats are made with the finest cashmere-wool blends and Italian cottons. Suits cost $140 or more (depending on the fabric and finishing details) and require one week; shirts start at $40. 108 Ly Tu Trong St., D1, 011-84/8-824-9437.

Kenly Silk

Silk shops abound in Vietnam, churning out purses and pajamas for the masses. But Kenly Silk matches great service and workmanship with a dizzying array of styles. The narrow store’s first floor displays ready-to-wear items as well as accessories like silk scarves, slippers and ties. Upstairs are the floor-to-ceiling bolts of fabric — taffetas, chiffons, muslins, raw silks and linens — necessary to create a custom look. Kenly is particularly popular for hand-embroidered blouses ($29, five days), mandarin-collar tops ($27, one day), and lacy sleepwear ($59 for a kimono and negligee, 7 to 10 days). 132 Le Thanh Ton St., D1, 011-84/8-829-3847.

Minh Hanh

Minh Hanh’s embroidery has garnered international recognition. She’s now fostering a new generation of talent as head of Saigon’s Fashion Design Institute. Her dresses and ao dai, dotted with delicate lotus flowers or lilacs, start at $100; velvet jackets edged with the geometric patterns of Vietnam’s ethnic tribes cost upward of $125. Most items take a week to complete. 114B Nguyen Hue St., D1, 011-84/8-823-5367.

Getting It Done Right

Go in prepared: Clip pictures from magazines of styles you like, or bring along something that fits just right. Virtually anything can be copied.

Do a test run: If you have the time, get one item made to check workmanship before putting in an entire order.

Know the facts: Talk money, time and store policies in advance. Many tailors won’t charge if you’re unsatisfied with the finished product, and most offer shipping if you run out of time or suitcase space.

Be realistic: Between finding a design, picking fabrics and attending fittings, getting clothes custom-made is time-consuming. Order selectively.

Speak up: The Vietnamese are tough customers. If you’re not happy, say so. Be persistent and firm, but don’t get visibly angry — it won’t get you anywhere.

Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

© 2006. Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.


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12:35′ 08/05/2007 (GMT+7)

A scene in the White Silk Dress
A scene in the White Silk Dress

VietNamNet Bridge – The Vietnam Cinema Association yesterday held a press conference to respond to the charge of some members of the Golden Kite’s jury that their votes for best feature film were falsified.   

Vietnam’s biggest annual film contest, the Golden Kite Awards, ended three days ago with two winners sharing the highest prize, the Golden Kite for best feature film:   Hanoi, Hanoi, a joint-venture between Vietnamese and Chinese producers, and the White Silk Dress produced by Vietnamese private production company Phuoc Sang Film. 

Some jury members such as musician Phu Quang said that before the award ceremony, the 9-member jury had agreed that five votes would be cast for Hanoi, Hanoi and four for the White Silk Dress. 

Yet, the final result turned out to be that four votes were counted for each movie and the last one was cast for a third nominee.   

The press conference held yesterday afternoon included Tran Luan Kim, Chairman of the Vietnam Cinema Association, Acting Deputy Chairman Dang Xuan Hai, Deputy Chairman Nguyen Khai Hung, and Chairwoman of this year’s Golden Kite’s jury board Nguyen Thi Hong Ngat.

Why were some of the jury members so surprised and even indignant when the best feature film title went to both Hanoi, Hanoi and the White Silk Dress? 

Tran Luan Kim:  Some of them were indeed surprised since when they met earlier, they somehow reached an agreement different from the final announcement.  But this agreement was only verbal.  Afterwards, each of them wrote down their choice on a secret vote. 

The final result was based on written votes, not verbal opinions.  The jury members might have reached their own conclusion, but it was the organization board that made the final decision.  I was surprised that they could be so angry.  There was nothing to be angry about. 

You can be angry if cheating occurred.  But there was no cheating.  Some are angry merely because others didn’t vote in the same way as them.  I have to say that there was no cheating here.  Cheating wouldn’t have been profitable to anyone. 

Nguyen Thi Hong Ngat:   I was myself very impressed by Hanoi, Hanoi, but I also knew that Chinese artists contributed 2/3 of the efforts in this film.  So it wasn’t fair to award only one golden kite. 

Yet, the two winners aren’t perfect.  Hanoi, Hanoi’s script is somewhat forced and awkward.  As for the White Silk Dress, it has some directing faults.   But no jury member was forced to vote against his or her opinion.  They voted as they saw fit and the organization board re-discussed their votes.

The organization board has more responsibility than the jury in considering what is best for the country’s cinema.  If there is any change of the jury’s decision, it is only meant to support and encourage Vietnamese cinema.

Khai Hung:  It is normal that the organization board has the right to adjust the jury’s decision based on a respect for the jury’s choice.  The role of the jury is to consult the organization board in awarding prizes.  As for myself, I think these two movies deserve only a silver kite.   

The Golden Kite is the contest for Vietnamese artists.  So why did the jury award the best leading actress and best soundtrack titles for Chinese artists in Hanoi, Hanoi?   

Tran Luan KimVietnam has joined the WTO, and integration means that no difference should be made among joint-ventures, overseas Vietnamese products, private and government-supported films.

Nguyen Thi Hong Ngat: Awarding prizes to Chinese artists means recognizing their contribution and efforts, as well as stimulating competition.

(Source: VNN, LD, TP, TT)

16:22′ 08/05/2007 (GMT+7)

A photo by Nguyen Kim Hoang
A photo by Nguyen Kim Hoang

VietNamNet Bridge – The HCM City Department of Culture and Information has recently refused to give permission for a nude photo exhibition titled Closer by female photographer Nguyen Kim Hoang, sparking a debate on censorship.

A dispatch No. 967/CV sent by the HCM City Department of Culture and Information to the HCM City Art Association on April 18, 2007, says: “The beauty of Vietnamese women is a secret beauty. All the photos in the exhibition capture and display the most sensitive parts of the woman, so showing this exhibition to the public wouldn’t be suitable to Vietnamese values and customs.”

According to Uyen Huy, Vice Secretary General of the HCM City Art Association, the “most sensitive parts of the woman” are nothing more than the chin, the arms, the back, the shoulders, the elbows and the breasts, and these are “merely beautiful images of bodily curves and lines.”

“There is absolutely no obscenity, sexual stimulation, or violation of values and customs at all. Perhaps since these photos were shot at a close angle, the department hesitated,” said Uyen Huy.

For her part, photographer Nguyen Kim Hoang said she was willing to shelve photos considered inappropriate if necessary. Yet, she was completely surprised to hear that her works were rejected because they were “unsuitable to Vietnamese values and customs.”

It seems that nude photos can be shown alongside other types of works in an exhibition. But Vietnamese censors are yet to okay an exclusively nude project, though they have recently granted permission for the screening of movies with unusually “hot” scenes like Hired Birth, When Men Are Pregnant, the White Silk Dress or Shoot As It Rings.

According to Chu Chi Thanh, Chairman of the Vietnam Photographer’s Association, neither the Ministry of Culture and Information nor the Vietnam Photographer’s Association forbids the artistic exploration of nudity.

“Local authorities may not be able to differentiate obscenity and acceptable things very well, so they hesitate. But I think such hesitation isn’t suitable any more these days. We are posing for global integration, so our social attitudes must be objective and open-minded and we should know how to tell the difference between beauty and obscenity,” said Chu Chi Thanh.

Chairman Thanh also said that by the end of this year, the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Vietnam Photographer’s Association would organize an unprecedented conference on nudity since these two authorities haven’t developed special guidelines on this subject.

(Source: TN)

16:29′ 08/05/2007 (GMT+7)

Lai Van Sinh and American filmmakers
Lai Van Sinh and American filmmakers

VietNamNet Bridge – A cinematic delegation with many famous names from Hollywood is visiting Vietnam during the first American Film Week ever to be organised in the country.

Head of Vietnam Bureau of Cinema Lai Van Sinh said that the Bureau as well as the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had worked very hard to invite directors Susannah Grant, Phil Robinson, Curtis Hanson, and producers William Horberg, Emmanuel Lubezki, Freida Lee Mock, and Tom Pollock to visit Vietnam from May 3-10.

Since their arrival on May 4, the delegation has had many things to say about Vietnam and Vietnamese cinema. The Quiet American’s producer William Horberg said he was very glad to be able to re-visit Vietnam and considered it a chance to enjoy Vietnamese sceneries.

Though at present, William Horberg doesn’t have any project about Vietnam, he is confident about the future partnership relationship with Vietnamese cinema. “Your country has many things that can attract filmmakers such as wonderful sceneries and architecture.”

“We can come here for any film project rather than just films about Vietnam. Our generation often chooses to talk about wars when making films about Vietnam, but later generations may find many fresher and more interesting topics,” said Horberg.

Tom Pollock, a former chairman of Universal Studios as well as the vice chairman of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has also talked with Tuoi Tre newspaper about this unprecedented event.

Vietnam is a very small cinema market. So is the purpose of your trip to explore market opportunities for American films, to search for investment partners or merely to engage in a cultural exchange?

Why is Vietnam a small cinema market? I’ve never heard anybody say that a country with the population of 80 million is a small market. Today the market may not be big, since there are still few people going to the cinema, few films and few theatres.

But in the near future, perhaps within 5 to 10 years, people will talk about Vietnamese cinema in the same way they’re now talking about Korean cinema.

What makes you believe so, given the fact the Vietnam is currently producing only 10 movies per year?

I’ve seen some Vietnamese movies screened at Vietnamese film festivals in the US. I’ve also been to Vietnam to talk with Vietnamese students and cinema artists. What I notice is that in Vietnam, fresh, youthful and daring ideas have been appearing among artists and students alike. This is the foundation for bringing Vietnamese movies closer to viewers.

I also know that in Vietnam, filmmakers have made films with government money, so they don’t have to pay attention to whether their movies will sell or who will watch them. But now that private producers are starting to invest in making films, they will have to think about profits and what viewers want. This is also the basic beginning of a big cinema market.

Investing in overseas projects is now quite popular in Hollywood because of lower expenses and exotic and beautiful sceneries. Does Universal have similar intentions regarding Vietnam?

This doesn’t just depend on us but on many sides. When deciding to invest somewhere, we don’t just pay attention to cheap labour or low expenses.

What’s more important is infrastructure and administrative procedures. From what I know, foreign filmmakers are quite tired of procedures in Vietnam. They have to ask permission for each shot and even have their scripts changed. But I hope that in the future, such things will be solved and we will have films made in our own studios in Vietnam.

(Source: Tuoi Tre)