Hollywood in Vietnam: First American Film Week in Hanoi

May 5, 2007–Hollywood came to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City this week. American filmmakers made their first international visit on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The creators of “Erin Brockovich”, “L.A. Confidential”, “Field of Dreams”, “Children of Men”, the documentary “Wrestling With Angels” and “The Quiet American” were meeting Vietnamese film producers, actors and film students.

They also presented the first “American Film Week” in the Southeast Asian country from May 3 at the invitation of the Vietnam National Cinema Department, which is part of the communist-run government.

The head of a delegation that boasts 14 Oscar nominations and two Oscar awards among them said the choice of Vietnam as a first for a visit by AMPAS was a coincidence. The Academy was discussing “international outreach” programmes when an invitation came from Hanoi.

“It turned out to be a perfect match, very coincidental but very fortunate from our point of view,” Ellen Harrington, director of exhibitions and special events at the Academy said at a media briefing in Hanoi on Friday.

Phil Robinson, writer-director of the 1989 film “Field of Dreams” that was nominated for several Academy Awards, said he was asked by Vietnamese film students about how to make stories that would be seen in America.

“My answer is make great Vietnamese films. Tell your stories as personally and passionately as you can because that is what the rest of the world is going to be moved by,” he said.

The government has allowed commercial and private production of films since 2003, but the Ministry of Culture and Information still requires its approval of scripts.

Young Vietnamese in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City flock to new cinema complexes to watch American movies or home-grown films, many of which are far less nationalistic than in the past and portray modern themes.

Stores sell pirated versions of American-made movies for just over a dollar per DVD, an intellectual property rights issue that the U.S. government frequently raises with Vietnam.

“We're paying attention to it,” Harrington said. “The film makers are not happy that their movies are being dubbed and sold the way that they are, but it is a much larger question than our delegation is addressing.”