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Amid Online Backlash, Production Company Pulls 'The Third Wife' From Theaters

After just four days in theaters, the award-winning movie The Third Wife (Nguoi Vo Ba) has stopped being screened in Vietnam due to an online controversy that’s gaining traction.

Tuoi Tre reported last night May 20 that The Third Wife’s production company has submitted a request to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to take down the movie from cinema listings across Vietnam. The film premiered last Friday, May 17 in Vietnam after spending more than half a year at international film festivals.

According to Producer Tran Thi Bich Ngoc, the decision was made in hopes of putting a stop to the online criticisms aimed at the main actress Tra My and her family for letting My partake in the film’s mature sequences when she was only 13.

The Third Wife follows the life story of May, a 14-year-old girl in 19th-century Vietnam after she becomes the third wife of a wealthy landowner. Some viewers and one particular online newspaper lambasted the film for casting the teenage actress. Tra My, who plays May, was born in 2004 and is now 15, but was 13 when filming took place. Detractors feel that some movie scenes, including a sex scene with an older male actor and a simulated childbirth, are too sexual for an underage actor.

Since the controversy, the Culture Ministry has ordered the Vietnam Cinema Department to report about the filming’s licensing process. On their part, the production team has also released an official statement through a legal representative saying that they’re considering pressing charges against some publications for defaming My and her family.

The statement adds that the Tra My’s participation in the scenes was approved by My and her mother and that the production created a professional environment for the filming of intimate scenes. Specifically, filming only took place with minimal personnel, including director Nguyen Phuong Anh, an assistant director, a camera operator and My’s mother. Additionally, appropriate prosthetics were used to cover the actors’ private parts. “There’s no exposure of breasts or genitalia like some rumors suggest,” the statement declares.

The Third Wife is the directorial debut of Nguyen Phuong Anh, also known as Ash Mayfair. Anh was born in Saigon but studied filmmaking in the US and UK. The movie had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September last year, when it won the festival's NETPAC Award For World or International Asian Premiere.

Since then, it has gone on to clinch other awards at film festivals in India, Egypt and Spain.

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