Vietnamese cinema has been on the up since the industry’s origin in the 1920’s. Contemporary Vietnamese filmmakers have gained a large domestic and international audience through compelling visual tales. Here are 10 incredible directors contributing to the rise of Vietnamese cinema.
1. Đặng Nhật Minh
Đặng Nhật Minh began making critically acclaimed documentaries in the 1960’s and his films have been met with success at numerous international film festivals. He is especially known for his 1984 film, When the Tenth Month Comes,a moving story of a woman struggling to raise her son and care for her aging father in law without telling them about her soldier husband’s death.
2. Nguyễn Trinh Thi
Nguyễn Trinh Thi is an independent filmmaker based in Hanoi. Her moving films and thought-provoking video installations have been featured in numerous film festivals and art exhibits across Europe and Asia. Nguyễn consistently examines the role of memory in her films and how it can unveil hidden truths as well as distort historical events. One of her most prominent works is her 35-minute short, titled Letters to Panduranga.
The 2015 film examines a minority Cham community living in the last surviving land of an ancient kingdom called Champa. The film touches on the historical effects of war and colonialism and is a unique blend of fiction and documentation. She is also the founder and director of Hanoi DOCLAB, an independent center for film and moving image art to inspire up-and-coming Vietnamese filmmakers and artists.
3. Victor Vũ
Victor Vũ is a Vietnamese-American director who was born and raised in southern California. To date he has directed over 10 films, many of which have been met with critical acclaim. He has won several prestigious Golden Kite Awards by the Vietnam Cinema Association for his work throughout his career.
His most recent work, Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass, is a beautiful story of brotherhood, innocence, and love and was submitted by Vietnam for Best Foreign Film at the 89th Academy Award. The movie follows the story of two young brothers vying for the affections of the same girl.
4. Nguyễn Quang Dũng
Nguyễn Quang Dũng is a successful Vietnamese director who was one of the first to graduate from the Ho Chi Minh University of Theatre and Cinematography in 1999. He is the son of famous Vietnamese writer Nguyễn Quang Sơn and grew up surrounded by art, music, and film. He began his career by directing an adaptation of one of his father’s short stories called Con Gà Trống (Rooster).
His latest film, Tháng Năm Rực Rỡ (Go-Go Sisters), about the lives of Vietnamese working women, is a remake of a popular South Korean movie and was a huge success at the box office. His next venture will be a Vietnamese remake of the American romantic comedy 50 First Dates.
5. Ngô Quốc Cường
Also known as Cường Ngô, this Vietnamese director earned an honours degree in Performing Arts in Vietnam before pursuing a Film Production degree at York University in Toronto, Canada. He has directed several short films, commercials, and feature films and has received several awards and nominations at various international film festivals.
Ngô is most famous for his debut feature film, Pearls of the Far East (2011), a drama focusing on the inner lives of Vietnamese women and their forbidden loves.
6. Tony Bui
Tony Bui was born in Vietnam in 1973 and landed in America two years later as a Vietnam War refugee with his family. His father supported his family by owning a video store, sparking Bui’s interest in cinema at a young age.
He grew up to study cinema in Los Angeles and visited Vietnam several times before directing his 1995 debut short film, Yellow Lotus, that was highly successful at national and international film festivals. Bui is well known for his feature film Three Seasons, the first American film to be entirely shot in Vietnam.
7. Lưu Huỳnh
This Saigon-born director moved to the United States with his family as a teenager and began directing feature films in 1999, with his debut, Đường trần (Passage of Life). Before he turned to film, he directed a controversial Paris-based television show called Paris By Night which featured Vietnamese actors living in France.
The show featured various musical performances, skits, short plays and comedy sketches that occasionally expressed negative views toward the Vietnamese government. For this reason, Paris By Night is officially banned in Vietnam.
One of Lưu’s most acclaimed films is his 2006 masterpiece titled Áo lụa Hà Đông (The White Silk Dress), a Vietnam war film that uses the traditional áo dài to symbolize the strength of Vietnamese women. The film won numerous awards and was especially favoured at the 2007 Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.
8. Nguyễn Võ Nghiêm Minh
Known as Minh Nguyễn-Võ, this famous Vietnamese-American film director spent 16 years as a physicist at the University of California in Los Angeles before turning his hand to film. He is best known for directing the 2004 haunting drama Mùa len trâu (The Buffalo Boy), which was Vietnam’s official submission for Best Foreign Film at the 78th Academy Awards.
The critically acclaimed film is set in southern Vietnam and tells the tale of a young boy tasked with transporting his father’s precious water buffalo to higher ground when the monsoon season begins.
Fans of sci-fi dramas need to check out his latest feature, Nước (2030), a futuristic film about the consequences of climate change in southern Vietnam.
9. Trần Anh Hùng
Trần Anh Hùng is one of the most well-known Vietnamese filmmakers in the world. Born in Vietnam and educated in France, this talented director has been nominated for an Oscar (Best Foreign Film) for his 1993 film The Scent of Green Papaya and has received several awards and nominations for his work.
His latest film is French star-studded Eternité, a genealogical tale of four women from a wealthy aristocratic family. Eternité does not have a steady plot line, nor does it feature standard amounts of dialogue, which has divided audience members and critics since its release.
10. Việt Linh
Việt Linh is a Vietnamese filmmaker currently based in Paris. She studied cinematography at the prominent Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (a.k.a VGIK) in Russia during the early 80’s. She returned to work for the government-owned Giải Phóng Film Studio in Ho Chi Minh City and has directed seven feature films since 1986, many of which have been shown in France, the United States, and Australia as well as in Vietnam.
Việt Linh is well known for her 1999 film Chung Cư (The Building, also known as Collective Flat) which follows the challenges faced by a Vietnamese hotel caretaker in Saigon who is informed that his hotel will be converted into apartments for the rapidly advancing North Vietnamese army.