HCM CITY — Despite strong demand, few quality films are made for children and teenagers in Viet Nam, with directors mostly pointing the finger at the dearth of good screenplays.
Nguyen Phu Hai, a director based in HCM City, said though the government has increased investment in movie production over the last decade, the number of films made for audiences under 15 remains dismally low.
Speaking to Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper recently he said making movies for children and teenagers is a hard task.
“Directors need good screenplays with which to work and skilled young actors who can breathe life and credibility into children’s roles,” he explained.
Do Thanh Hai, director of Viet Nam Television’s Film Production Centre and a well-known director who has made some quality children films, said directors often get poor scripts that are not suitable for young audiences.
Understandably, they do not want to sink billions of dong into trying to transform these mediocre screenplays into masterpieces, he said.
His studio has made movies aimed at youngsters, such as 12A & 4H and Doi Dac Nhiem Nha C12 (Apartment C12’s Special Mission Unit), which impressed audiences and even some hard-boiled critics. But Hai claimed that his staff got very lucky and got some interesting scripts.
Nguyen My Khanh, one of the HCM City’s very few female directors, said young people enjoy movies that reflect their own world.
“They do not like to be burdened with the serious problems of adults.”
Khanh herself made her name from a popular children’s film called Xom Cao Cao (Green Grasshopper Hamlet) that was shown on Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV) in 2005.
The film, which portrays the lives of rural students aged between eight and 13, features lively performances by a group of amateur actors living in a rural HCM City district.
HTV has been broadcasting the film every summer since.
“I know what topic is fit for young audiences.
“But how I can make good children’s films when I do not have money to choose and produce my screenplays?”
She said producers prefer making films for adults because it is easier to make profits that way.
Often directors and screenwriters simply fully to understand what children want and are thinking, according to some.
Nguyen Thi Mai, a movie critic for Viet Nam Cinematography magazine, observed that children have their own way of absorbing their surroundings and interacting with the world, and thus it is not always easy to read their minds.
“Some children’s movies, such as Ngay Xua Ngay Xua (Once Upon A Time) and Chiec Hop Gia Bao (Inherited Treasure Box), attracted only lukewarm interest from children while their parents and teachers enjoyed them very much.”
A reader of Mai’s magazine wrote a letter complaining that she and her friends do not like Vietnamese children’s movies because they are boring: “We never think and act like them.”
Unsurprisingly, Hollywood movies such as Frozen, Mr Peabody, and Maleficent are dominating cinemas and attracting long queues this summer.
The market for children’s and teenagers’ films is promising. Good Vietnamese movies will be a sight for sore young eyes.