When money burns holes

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SaigonTimes English - 51 month(s) ago 2 readings

The curtain finally comes down, temporarily dousing heated debates over the movie “Ly Cong Uan – the Road to Thang Long Citadel” when the Vietnam Cinematography Bureau this week bans the TV serial film from being premiered during the millennial anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi. The movies appraising council under the bureau makes it clear to the private film producer Truong Thanh Media that the series is unfit for screening during this special festive occasion due to its controversial contents. The rejection proves a fatal blow to the film producer in terms of investment.

When money burns holes

By Son Nguyen in HCMC

The curtain finally comes down, temporarily dousing heated debates over the movie “Ly Cong Uan – the Road to Thang Long Citadel” when the Vietnam Cinematography Bureau this week bans the TV serial film from being premiered during the millennial anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi. The movies appraising council under the bureau makes it clear to the private film producer Truong Thanh Media that the series is unfit for screening during this special festive occasion due to its controversial contents. The rejection proves a fatal blow to the film producer in terms of investment.

The conclusion, although not slamming the door shut for the TV film, can be seen the right response to the angry public objection to the film, which costs Truong Thanh Media some VND100 billion, or over US$5 million, in its production. Though it is private money, the discretion taken in producing this film – and other huge sums of State money spent on the organization of the Hanoi-Thang Long Festival from a wider perspective – has not been properly attended to, so to say.

In its conclusion, the movies appraising council says that the film will give spectators the feeling that “this is a Chinese movie,” as most of the scenes are in China, let alone other Chinese cultural traits like fashions and lifestyles reflected in the TV series. Furthermore, many historical facts are not adhered to in the film.

In fact, soon after the film’s trailer was put forth in the media for public preview, voices of angry protests have flooded newsrooms, with most of the ideas harshly criticizing the Chinese spirit in the movies.

Film director Bui Thac Chuyen, a member of the movies appraising council, plainly puts it on Vnexpress: “This is a Chinese movie. No dispute. Chinese director and Chinese playwright!”

While appreciating the enthusiasm of the private film producer in making the film as a tribute to Hanoi’s great festival, Nguoi Lao Dong still says the contents are unacceptable. In the latest copy that has been revised and corrected as requested by the movies appraising council, the Chinese style is still overwhelming, according to the newspaper.

“Those who have watched the revised movie can see that the Chinese style is still too strong there, from the background to fashions and equipment, and acting scenes with Chinese people in the film backdrop,” says Nguoi Lao Dong. The dominance of Chinese spirit in the film is understandable, says the newspaper, as the film studio is in China while costumes are either made by or rented in China. That is not to mention the Chinese playwright and Chinese characters.

On Phap Luat newspaper, Poet Do Trung Quan labels the film as “a Chinese movie dubbed in Vietnamese,” adding the film if screened will be an insult to predecessors. The newspaper cites another researcher to say that Vietnamese history films cannot be made with the backgrounds from another country, as such a practice will be proactive self-transformation of the country’s cultural identity.

As the film is meant a tribute to the millennium anniversary of Hanoi, the public has the right to ask that it be authentically Vietnamese.

“This is a history film meant to celebrate the 1,000th year of Hanoi. Whether it is made from private funds or the State coffer, it must be a good-smell incense stick to make the offerings,” says Nguoi Lao Dong.

Controversies over the film will cool down as time goes by, although the public sentiment has been hurt, and the financial damage borne by the film producer has been inflicted. But on a wider perspective, the film “the Road to Thang Long Citadel” is just a tiny part of the costly preparations for Hanoi’s 1,000th-year anniversary which will kick off Friday in the capital city.

The final cost for the huge festival has not been revealed, but given many projects having been deployed, big holes must have been burned in the State coffer.

Just like the aforesaid film that is now temporarily shelved, several construction works in Hanoi have also come to a dead halt after strong public protests, such as the replacement of pavements around the Sword Lake, all due to the absence of discretion on the part of the project owners. However, unlike the film project, most of the decorations and reconstruction and manpower mobilization to give Hanoi City a huge extravaganza are financed by the State. So, the question remains to be answered whether all such costs are worthwhile, especially for projects that are not meant to improve the people’s livelihood, but are merely intended for the festival.

The Saigon Times Daily

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