17:19′ 11/05/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – A delegation of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has come to HCMC to participate in the American Film Week here beginning May 7.

Among them is Tom Pollock, a well-known figure who has held senior posts in MCA Inc. including vice chairman, executive vice president, and chairman of its motion picture group Universal Pictures for ten years (1986-1995).

He talks with The Saigon Times Daily on what he has perceived of a developing filmmaking industry in Vietnam. Excerpts follow.

How is your five days in Hanoi during the American Film Week there?

Well, we first met with the Vietnam Cinematography Department and the Ministry of Culture and Information and spent a lot of time with the filmmakers, associations, film schools of the universities.

The best part (of the trip) for us is meeting with the filmmakers. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (in the US) that gives out the Oscar is not an organization of studios but it is basically an association of filmmakers just like the Vietnamese Association that gives out the Golden Kite Award.

So we are a group of filmmakers and for us the most interesting part is to meet the people who actually make the films in Vietnam.

What is your opinion about filmmakers in Vietnam?

What we found out very quickly is that up until this year most of the filmmaking has been done by the government through the Cinematography Department.

Now there is a change as the Government is now basically encouraging filmmakers not to expect the money from the Government but to try to develop their films through the market economy and that is especially true here in HCMC more so than in Hanoi.

The filmmakers in the south that we have talked to are very entrepreneurial. It means they like the idea to raise their own money and they do it through the private studios here and the co-production with other countries, exchanges and the movies can be made that way that aims at the audience.

The films of the north (of Vietnam) are more thoughtful, beautiful to look at the imagery. The films of the south like “The Rebel” are like the other Asian cinemas with lots of things going on and are more entertaining.

However, film is both art and commerce. If you only do commerce, that is not good and if you only do art, that is not good either. You want to tie them both. What is going to happen, in my opinions, is that the filmmaking in the north would become more commercial and the filmmaking in the south would become more artistic and great films will come out of it.

In a time of cultural interrelations, do you think Vietnamese filmmakers should make the films that are more universal?

Well, it is interesting. The film language is universal but I think that filmmakers in every country look first to their country and we’ve been saying to all the Vietnamese filmmakers that we see not to try to copy American movies, Korean movies or other Asian movies.

Make Vietnamese films for the Vietnamese audiences that Vietnamese audiences like, using the techniques, the equipments that all the film cultures use to tell the stories that are uniquely Vietnamese.

That will make a great Vietnamese cinema that helps it travel all over the world because it is part of the Vietnamese culture and the worldwide culture at the same time.

How about the young Vietnamese filmmakers, are they promising?

Yes, very much so. The young Vietnamese filmmakers no longer get money from the government to do the films and they are also not used to it.

They just have the stories they want to tell and we have talked to a number of young people who borrowed money from their relatives, friends, or even sold their houses to get the movies made.

That is what happens in the United States too for the young filmmakers who want to get into the business. They do not do it for money. They do it to tell their stories and that is exciting.

The young Vietnamese filmmakers are exactly like the young filmmakers all over the world. They are from different countries so they have different stories to tell but their attitudes are exactly the same.

They have the stories they have to tell and they are excited about telling them and I feel it strongly when talking with writers, directors and producers in their 20s and 30s here. They see the liberalization of the film business of the Government is the chance to tell their stories.

One last question. Is there anything you want to advise the young Vietnamese filmmakers?

Yes, Keep pushing. The young filmmakers in Vietnam that we have heard know exactly what they want to do. They don’t have the money, the equipment yet and I said that they don’t have screen writing skills yet but they are articulate about the movies they are going to make and they are excited about making them.

That is the best thing in the world, having that kind of excitement in what you do. We should all do what we like to do in this world because we only have one life to do it.

(Source: SGT)