The closure of Cinematheque in November 2016 was a blow to film buffs in Hanoi, not least Friends of Vietnam Heritage (FVH), who had been screening Vietnamese films monthly at the venue for 13 years. The long-term collaboration began with the idea of bringing Vietnamese films, and films made by foreigners about Vietnamese life, society and culture to FVH’s membership base of expatriates and Vietnamese.
“The closing of Cinematheque in November 2016 was the end of FVH film nights and we struggled for some months to try and revive film nights at other locations,” says John Reilly, Chairman of FVH.
The struggle was real, and with dwindling attendance numbers at each screening, something had to be done fast. The solution was Vietnam Feature Film Studios.
“We worked with several Vietnamese film enthusiasts [during this time], including former Cinematheque staff to find another location. An introduction to Vuong Duc — the director of Vietnam Feature Film Studios — was made by a fellow film director,” says John.
“FVH is honoured, proud and excited to have this chance to partner with the studios and hold our monthly film nights there. Our films will be shown in their endearing cinema room, which has such a nostalgic feel to it.”
Now Open To The Public
Vietnam Feature Film Studios (VFFS) at 4 Thuy Khue, Tay Ho houses two studios among a complex network of external corridors and green shuttered single-story terraces, painted ochre yellow. Inside are studio editing suites, props and wardrobe rooms, and offices. And a movie theatre, which — up until now — has never been open to the public and is now home to FVH’s monthly film nights.
The theatre holds 90 people, and up until now, was only ever used by directors and their crew to view the day’s rushes or for pre-screenings. The birth of Vietnamese cinema can be traced back to a newsreel of Ho Chi Minh’s declaration of independence, filmed by a French amateur in September 1945. In March 1953, the State Enterprise for Photography & Motion Picture was established, and in 1956, the Vietnam Cinema Department was founded under the Ministry of Culture. Two feature _lm studios were established not long after; one in Saigon, and the VFFS in Hanoi, which was dubbed the big brother of Vietnam’s domestic film industry.
A Golden Era of Vietnamese Cinema
The first movie made by VFFS — a love story where the two main characters were prevented from marrying by the authorities — was released in July 1959. Since that first release, more than 400 feature films, art films, documentaries and thousands of television episodes have been produced. It launched the golden era of Vietnamese cinema, and nurtured the careers of directors Nguyen Duc Viet, Nguyen Thanh Van, Quoc Trong and Tran Luc, and actors The Anh, Tra Giang, Lan Huong, Minh Chau and Thanh Quy.
“The studio has always been the leader of Vietnam revolutionary cinematography,” says John. “Many films made here have been screened at International Film Festivals, and many have won first prize in the Vietnam National Film Festival.”
According to John, the benefits of the collaboration between FVH and VFFS are mutual. “For VFFS, this is a chance to show [their films] to a new audience. For FVH, this is an opportunity to show our members these classic and often rare films from [the VFFS] library, and to help with modern subtitling, and the repair and cleaning up of these great films.”
He adds: “Hopefully, both VFFS and FVH will be able to continue showing important, often magical, films at this location and help preserve the history of the venue, which has its own fascinating [history].”
For more information about FVH Film nights, visit fvheritage.org. VFFS is located at 4 Thuy Khue, Tay Ho, Hanoi