In the “hot seat” judging “hot movies”

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Báo Tuổi Trẻ English - 85 month(s) ago 48 readings

A member on Vietnam Movie Association’s executive committee and art council, director Nguyen Vinh Son will serve as vice chairman of the board of examiners (BOE) at the “Golden Kite” Awards, to judge feature films. In an interview with Tuoi Tre, Nguyen Vinh Son shares some of his thoughts on what he described as the “hot seat.”

Is there any change in the members of BOE this year?

The BOE judging feature films is increased to 13 members this year, with Hong Anh joining us after returning from her study abroad. I hope there will be some real change soon in the way of BOE. There is no BOE at the American Academy Award, the British BAFTA Award, or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe Award. The winners in these competitions are decided by a large number of voting members, not by a BOE.

I have suggested a similar “electorate” model to replace our traditional BOE. In this new model, around 60-100 of writers and artists will be the electors voting on behalf of the audiences.

BOE at the “Golden Kite” Awards will determine the cinematographic merit of Vietnamese “Inferno” after watching Hollywood “Shattered”.

But we used to have the Audience Awards?

But it wasn’t very successful. This method of popular voting only works when the audience shows not only serious responsibility for their voting decision but also a reasonable level of artistic appreciation.

How can the “electorate” model change anything?

First of all, it will make the “Golden Kite” Award different from the national film festival’s “Lotus” Award, which often invites the same professionals to sit on the BOE to judge more or less the same movies. In the new model, the “Golden Kite” Award will no longer be considered just a carbon copy of the “Lotus” Award.

An “electorate” BOE will judge a movie from the audiences’ points of view. They will represent the professionals, journalists, critics and young audiences who can freely express their opinions, thus stoking up healthy, lively debates in the press. Of course, the final scores will be kept secret until the final day.

I have proposed this model in many meetings before the art council and the idea was well supported. However, due to the many constraints we face, such as money and time, etc., the proposal has not been put to work.

Director Nguyen Vinh Son. Photo: Minh Duc

Every year, after the closing of “Golden Kite” Award ceremony, there are always controversies and debates about the decisions of the BOE. What do you think is the reason for this?

Theoretically, the BOE are always chosen based on their professional experience and qualification, to make sure they make the right judgment. However, in reality, there are often “behind closed doors” influences, such as phone calls from the film makers, a member’s preference for movies from a particular region, or the relationships between a judging member and a film producer, etc. that make the job of the BOE a lot more complicated. Each of the judging members, however, has to bear responsibility for their final decision as it will reflect positively or negatively on their professional reputation. As a result, they are supposed to focus exclusively on the movies and reach the decision independently of all the external influences.

Do you think that the criteria at the “Golden Kite” Award are not clear even though the event has been organized many times? The classification of the prizes, for example, is different every year.

Our movie industry is expanding and going through many changes. Film festivals, accordingly, have to be flexible as well to reflect the changes.

It is difficult to talk about the criteria since the number of movies produced each year in Vietnam is pretty small, so we have to include every movie available in the contest. In my opinion, the best criterion for awarding a movie should be based on its cinematographic merit, its high level of professional creativity and innovation in both content and means of expression.

“Norwegian forest,” directed by Tran Anh Hung, was a box-office success in many cities in Vietnam. Does this mean that our audiences are now having a more refined taste and quite a few domestic movie makers are underestimating the audiences’ aesthetic standards?

That’s the good news. The number of movie-goers attending art-house movies in the country is increasing, but it is still nothing compared to the number who goes to see commercial entertaining movies. This has resulted in a rather disheartening fact that before any serious, “high-art” movie hits the theatres, it has to downplay its artistic value while overplaying its “entertaining” value by highlighting and putting sexual scenes on its posters to attract the audiences.

What do you think of “Inferno” competing in the film festival this year despite all allegations that it is just a “knockoff” version of “Shattered”?

It is quite legitimate that the BOE accept the movie “Inferno” in the competition. I have seen the movie and I have to admit that Victor Vu is a talented director. The BOE will have to see the Hollywood movie “Shattered” first before making any judgment.

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