Vietnamese filmmakers discover success
December 4, 2007
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