Vietnamese filmmakers discover success


Travel documentaries have been staple programming in countries around the world for many years.

However, due to limited budgets, not until the turn of 21st century have Vietnamese film producers given more attention to this fascinating form of entertainment.

Deceiving rave reviews from both Vietnamese at home and abroad for its groundbreaking documentary series broadcast on HTV and VTV, the Ho Chi Minh City Television Film Studios (TFS) has become the premier producer of Vietnamese travel documentaries.

In a recent interview with Thanh Nien Daily, TFS head Nguyen Viet Hung disclosed two reasons why viewers have recently caught on to documentaries, which used to be considered too tough, too uninspired for the Vietnamese audience to embrace.

“First of all, the scripts of these documentary series are more realistic, more daring, less stylized. The images we create are real and visceral. We don’t use sophisticated techniques to perfect or beautify the pictures.

“And thanks to the government policy since the turn of 21st century that allows public and private sponsors to invest in the film industry, budgeting has no longer been a problem.”

In 2000, TFS filmmakers and cameramen set off on their first-ever overseas shoot to China, where they spent 21 days capturing the stunning scenery, history and culture of that great country.

Entitled Trung Hoa du ky (Journey to China), the 24-episode documentary series received an enthusiastic reception by Vietnamese viewers.

This unexpected success urged TFS to throw itself into producing a second series – Mekong ky su (Mekong Discovery), which was broadcast on HTV and VTV in 2005.

With a budget of US$300,000, the 70-episode Mekong Discovery documented a perilous journey through the five countries – China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia – where the Mekong River bares its influence.

The series was a hit that created a documentary-watching frenzy among Vietnamese viewers at home and abroad.

For the first time ever, a Vietnamese film crew successfully documented almost every stretch of the magnificent Mekong River, including the lives of the inhabitants and the diverse flora and fauna.

Decently, the 71-episode Ky su Amazon (Amazon Discovery) took the TFS crew on a 60-day tramp through five South American countries where the Amazon – the world’s second largest river-flows.

The series not only depicted cultures indigenous to South America but also highlighted the lives of overseas Vietnamese in the region.

Since then, the reputation of made-in-Vietnam travel documentaries has reached two Pacific island nations – New Caledonia and Vanuatu, the governments of which officially invited TFS to start filming this July on their two islands.

Ky su Tan Dao (New Islands Discovery), besides revealing the dazzling beauty and cultures of two South Pacific island nations, also reflects the lives of Vietnamese people living there.

Their ancestors were shipped to the far-off lands to be coal miners and plantation coolies under French colonialism in 1930s.

Those ancestors inter-married with whites and blacks already living there creating a fascinating new people and culture.

At present, this hardy film crew is now experiencing a once-in-a-life-time challenge in documenting the Ganges River.

This massive river, considered sacred by Hindus, begins in Northern India in the Himalayas, and flows southeastward through Bangladesh before emptying into the Bay of Bengal to form one of the world’s largest deltas.

Trekking through three south Asian countries – India, Bangladesh, and Nepal – it is expected to take the men some 60 days and nights to film 50 episodes.

The series began airing on HTV7 at 9:15 p.m. and on channel HTV9 at 11 p.m. on November 21.

It will air every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening.

Reported by Luu Hong

Vietnamese woman brings Vietnamese movies to US
10:46′ 25/11/2007 (GMT+7)

Dr. Lan signs on her gift books

VietNamNet Bridge – Cinema critic, Dr. Ngo Phuong Lan, recently went to three states in the US to introduce her book “Modernity and Nationality in Vietnamese Cinema” and attend workshops with the similar themes.


“Modernity and Nationality in Vietnamese Cinema” is the first book on Vietnamese cinema in English. It was published this May in Indonesia by the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC).


NETPAC gathers over 50 famous cinema activists in Asia and Europe, Australia and the US and in 2007 this organisation began to publish books to introduce Asian cinema to the world. Dr. Lan’s book is the first work published by NETPAC.


Going to the US with Dr. Lan were Philip Cheah, co-editor of the book, who is Director of the Singapore International Film Festival and Vietnamese Director Pham Nhue Giang, whose Thung lung hoang vang (Deserted Valley) won the FIPRESSCI Award for Promising Asian Director at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2002.


The group called on Honolulu, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Deserted Valley was screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival while the book was introduced at the festival press conference.


They also attended workshops on Vietnamese movies at Hawaii University, the Washington University in Seattle, Pomona College and famous UCLA University in Los Angeles. Before each workshop, a 20-minute clip containing extracts of some typical Vietnamese films in different periods was introduced, with brief comments on the characteristics of modernity and nationality in Vietnamese cinema.


Attendants at these workshops were movie researchers, doctors and professors on Southeast Asian history and culture so they were really interested in Vietnam in general and Vietnamese cinema in particular.


Participants often asked about the Vietnamese state’s investment in cinema, film censorship and new trends in Vietnamese cinema.


Their doubts about censorship in Vietnam disappeared after they watched an extract from the film Bar Girls and learned it was a state-funded film, Dr. Lan said.


(Source: Tien Phong)

Paperwork problems in adoption of two Vietnamese orphans bring heartache

A nursery awaits its second occupant

Photos by Karen Quincy Loberg / Star staff  Julie Carroll plays with her daughter Lillian Rose in their Camarillo home. The Carrolls adopted two girls in Vietnam, but their other daughter, Madelyn Grace, top, was denied a visa and remains in Vietnam.

Photos by Karen Quincy Loberg / Star staff Julie Carroll plays with her daughter Lillian Rose in their Camarillo home. The Carrolls adopted two girls in Vietnam, but their other daughter, Madelyn Grace, top, was denied a visa and remains in Vietnam.

Order Photos

In the upstairs nursery of Steve and Julie Carroll’s Camarillo home, two identical cribs are lined with identical pink blankets.

There are two rocking chairs and two dressers. A photo of two baby girls sits on top of one dresser, and on the other rests two handmade Vietnamese bears, each bearing the name of one of the little girls.

It’s a nursery created with love for Vietnamese orphans Lillian Rose and Madelyn Grace as they embark on their new life in America. But there’s something missing from this idyllic scene.

While 6-month-old Lillian Rose sleeps snuggled up to adoptive mother, Julie, 7-month-old Madelyn Grace is still a world away in Vietnam.

Although the Carrolls are the legal parents of both babies under Vietnamese law, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the Department of Homeland Security, denied Madelyn a visa to enter this country.

After four weeks of living with both baby girls in Vietnam, the Carrolls were forced to leave Madelyn behind.

“You’re torn completely in half,” said Julie Carroll. “You’re so joyful that you have finally brought your child home. But at the same time, you’re aching because your other child is thousands of miles away.”

“We’re stuck in the middle,” Steve said. “We were approved to adopt two children. We legally adopted two children in Vietnam, and now they’re telling us we’re only allowed to bring one of them home.”

U.S. officials would not comment on the Carrolls’ case specifically but say an increasing number of irregularities are appearing in orphan petitions and visa applications in Vietnam. They urge people to get visas first before traveling to pick up adopted children.

Madelyn has been placed in foster care in Vietnam along with another baby girl adopted by a Seaside, Calif., family but also denied a U.S. visa.

Adoption options researched

Steve Carroll, 38, and Julie, 36, have been married for nine years. Steve is deputy administrator for Ventura County’s Emergency Medical Services. Julie, a former social worker, is a homemaker and full-time mother to 6-year-old Jeremy, 4-year-old Grayson and Lillian Rose.

With two boys of their own already and having faced infertility issues, they decided to add to their family through international adoption.

At first, they planned to follow the lead of a cousin on Julie’s side who had successfully adopted from China. But when told it takes two to four years for a Chinese adoption to be completed, they turned to Vietnam.

After researching the options, registering with a licensed and reputable agency and undergoing the required home studies, they learned in June that two baby girls, just days apart in age, had been found for them.

Then came the first disappointment: They learned a few weeks later that one of the babies had been adopted out to another family.

Although Steve and Julie wanted to adopt two girls close in age so they could grow up together like sisters, they decided to move forward with adopting the one, whom they named Madelyn Grace.

Then they were told another baby girl, six weeks younger than Madelyn and living at the same orphanage, was also available for them. They agreed to adopt her, too, and gave her the name Lillian Rose. In mid-September, the couple and their two boys traveled to Vietnam to see the babies for the first time.

At no point, they said, were they told there could be a problem with the adoptions.

‘Cleared for travel’

“We followed all of the procedures and were told we were cleared for travel,” Steve said. “Then, while we were there, they decided to investigate our cases and then they said there were irregularities and they were going to deny one of our two babies.”

The Carrolls said U.S. officials are questioning Madelyn Grace’s documentation.

Sharon Rummery, the California spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said she could not comment on the case. But the Web site for the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi says orphan petition and visa application irregularities are increasing.

“The ongoing number of irregularities that we are currently seeing strongly indicates that the adoption process in Vietnam still lacks sufficient oversight and regulation,” the Web site says. “We are deeply concerned … by confirmed cases of child selling, and by evidence that children are being released for adoption without the consent of the birth parents.”

Rummery said the United States has a moral obligation to make sure a child being adopted is truly an orphan because of death, abandonment or the relinquishment of parental rights.

“Adoptive parents must conform to U.S. law in order to bring the child home, and that means the child must qualify as an orphan,” she said. “That means we must be able to establish through paperwork that the child is an orphan.”

The Carrolls have hired an experienced international adoption attorney, Irene Steffas, based in Georgia, to handle their appeal against the U.S. government’s Notice of Intent to Deny admission. They refuse to think about what might happen if their appeal is denied.

“We sat in the office in the embassy in Hanoi and we said if you can show us that she was a victim of baby buying or if her birth parents are looking for her, we will personally hand her back,” Julie said. “We are people of integrity, and we would never participate in anything like that.”

In addition to the emotional toll, the Carrolls are facing growing financial costs.

Lou Dunne, who helps run a Ventura-based support group for parents who have adopted children from overseas, said an international adoption can cost upward of $25,000. The Carrolls estimate they’ve spent about $40,000 so far on the two adoptions and their four-week trip to Vietnam. They’ve been told they face $20,000 more in legal fees.

They have asked California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee to intervene. The senators’ offices and committee officials did not return phone calls seeking comment. A spokesman for the Vietnamese embassy in Washington, D.C., was not available for comment.

Rummery said the U.S. government has always encouraged people adopting abroad to file all their paperwork first and get visa approval before traveling to get their children.

“Whenever you travel first and then file,” she said, “you take a risk.”

‘Holly’: An unsettling chronicle of child prostitution


Two months ago, the movie “Trade” exposed, in fictional terms, the Mexican trade in child sex slaves — the horror of kids kidnapped off the streets and sold to brothels or wealthy pedophiles. “Holly” is the Far Eastern counterpart of the same story.




CAST: Ron Livingston, Thuy Nguyen, Virginie Ledoyen, Chris Penn, Udo Kier

LANGUAGE: English, Khmer and Vietnamese with English subtitles

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

RATING: R for disturbing sexual situations involving children, and for language

WHERE: Meridian 16


Like that earlier ’07 film, this one is unflinching and relentless in its depiction of a sordid world, but it’s in no way titillation masquerading as social commentary. The filmmaker’s vision is harrowingly ugly and profoundly upsetting every step of the way.

The title character (Thuy Nguyen) is a 12-year-old Vietnamese prostitute from a small village who has been sold by her desperately poor parents to a sex trafficker, who has in turn sold her to a brothel in neighboring Cambodia, the international mecca of child prostitution.

Holly is seen mainly from the point of view of Patrick (Ron Livingston), a 30-something American peddler in illegal antiquities who gets to know her when his motorbike breaks down in front of her brothel and he’s stranded for two days in the infamous K-11 red-light village.

When Holly runs away and embarks on a hopeless odyssey to return to her village, Patrick tries to help her, driven partly by guilt that he has had some sexual feelings for her, but mostly by a moral epiphany: He thinks if he can save this one child, he may be able to save his soul.

Filmed in Cambodia in the face of government harassment (with many scenes shot inside the brothels of Phnom Penh), the low-budget film was produced by activists of the Redlight Children Campaign, a grass-roots movement to “generate concern and immediate action against child sexploitation.”

Even so, it works as more than a muckraking tract. The story is told with great passion and authority by first-time director Guy Moshe; and the ironic, tortured performances of Livingston, Udo Kier (as a john), the late Chris Penn (as an antiquities dealer) and 14-year-old Thuy Nguyen are all first-rate.

In at least one way, “Holly” is probably a better, more honest movie than “Trade,” because it doesn’t betray itself with the semblance of a Hollywood ending. It’s realistic enough to admit that there’s probably no way to ever completely eradicate an evil for which there seems to be such an eager demand.

It’s also likely to be a controversial movie because it dares to make the (politically incorrect) statement that child prostitution in Cambodia is less a phenomenon of perverted Western tourism than a deeply entrenched, long-accepted phenomenon of Cambodian culture — and any attempt to end it without taking this fact into account is doomed to failure.

(click to enlarge)
A scene from “Holly.”

‘Holly’ rises above standard melodrama

Having been mired in extremely serious films for the last couple of months, it comes as no surprise to encounter “Holly” at this point. For here is a film about child prostitution in Southeast Asia.

This isn’t another in the flood of recent documentaries; “Holly” takes a traditional dramatic route, and with pretty strong results. But it uses so many real locations that it could be a documentary.

The film’s greatest weakness is its rather cliched idea of a main character, a burned-out American known for his card-playing skills in Cambodia. This is Patrick (Ron Livingston), the type of guy who’s a little too familiar in stories like these.

We don’t know what happened to Patrick to make him dead inside, but he works as a courier for another American (Chris Penn, in one of his last roles) dealing in illegal transport.

By accident, Patrick makes the acquaintance of a 12-year-old girl, Holly (Thuy Nguyen). He slowly realizes she has been sold into sexual slavery by her Vietnamese parents, and taken to a slum district of Phnom Penh to work as a prostitute.

It will come as no shock that Patrick’s encounter with Holly stirs some slumbering sense of righteousness within him. That much of the plot is standard; what’s admirable about the movie is that it doesn’t entirely play out the way you might expect.

Director Guy Moshe catches the creepy, humid atmosphere of his milieu, which was reportedly filmed in Phnom Penh neighborhoods that had very recently housed brothels like the ones depicted here. That gives the movie believability, even of a disturbing kind.

Adding immeasurably to this is a fascinating score by Ton-That Tiet, the Vietnamese composer of “Scent of Green Papaya.” It sounds like atonal jazz of the 1950s, and it absolutely works for the story.

The average-guy qualities of Ron Livingston (recently seen in “Music Within”) give his character some ragged life, and French starlet Virginie Ledoyen is all right as a social worker. Udo Kier lends his usual air of decadence to the role of a veteran consumer of brothel culture.

The film’s ending takes some gutsy turns. It isn’t quite enough to turn this into a classic, or lift it above the level of melodrama, not matter how sincere and committed. But it gets the job done.


Vietnamese Cha Tom/Hue Shrimp Patties

Fri, November 30 2007

1 pound raw shrimp in shell (smaller shrimp preferred)
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon rock sugar (pounded to a powder) or 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 egg whites, beaten until frothy
1 tablespoon of rice powder
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lard or cooking oil

Shell and devein the shrimp and rinse.
Dry the shrimp thoroughly with paper towels, blotting many times until dry.
Put the garlic, shrimp, rock sugar powder, rice powder, ground black pepper, lard into a food processor and blend well. Transfer the shrimp paste into a bowl.
Beat the egg white with an electronic hand beater until frothy.
Combine the shrimp paste with beaten egg white and blend well with hand.
Divide the shrimp paste into 3 equal portions.
On a flat surface, roll out 24 inches of clear plastic wrap and fold it into half.
Put one portion of the shrimp paste at one end of the plastic wrap and roll them into a sausage as pictured above. Tie both ends with string.
Bring a pot of water to boil and then boil the three shrimp sausage rolls for 5 minutes. Dish up and let cool.
Remove the plastic wrap and cut the shrimp sausage into small pieces as pictured above.
Pan-seared both sides of the shrimp patties until they turn light brown.
Serve with toothpick and garnish with chopped scallion.

TurnHere Inc.

December 4, 2007

TurnHere Inc.  We produce 1 to 3 minute films for the internet. We are looking for a filmmaker in Vietnam to do a shoot for us in the city of Dong Nai by the end of this week or the beginning of next week.  We use filmmakers all over the world and we are still building our filmmaker network in Vietnam .  Minh informed me that you are the director of the Vietnamese Film Festival in southern California and that you have a network of filmmakers in Vietnam that might be interested in this project.  What we are looking for is a good shooter that speaks English.  The filmmaker would also be able to edit his own work. 

I really appreciate any contacts you could put me in touch with. 

Please check out our website www.turnhere. com

Even if the filmmakers are not available for this project we encourage all filmmaker to apply on our website to become part of our world wide filmmaking network.

http://admin. turnhere. com/entryForm. php

Thank you so much for your time Ysa, I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely, Tara


Tara Walsh

Production Coordinator

TurnHere, Inc.
1480 64th St. Suite 100
Emeryville , CA 94608

Phone: 415-823-7615

Fax: 510-658-9317

www.turnhere. com