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3 Vietnamese Films Selected for Locarno Film Festival

The Locarno Film Festival opens this month for the 72nd year running, this time as a new hybrid edition titled "For the Future of Films." 

It will take place online and in theaters in Locarno, Switzerland, and will feature in its dense program the works of five Vietnamese filmmakers. Conceived and built with the help of its partners in the year of COVID-19, the festival supports a film industry in the midst of a crisis as unpredictable as it was inevitable. An industry that is made up of films, authors, producers, cinemas, audiences and the festival itself, the Locarno Film Festival took the time to think about each of these souls and imagined that the best way was to be there at their side, to continue to exist beyond tomorrow, beyond 2020, projecting itself towards 2021.

Selected as part of the Pardi di domani competition program, a platform for new talent from around the world, three Vietnamese filmmakers will have their short films screened in Locarno theaters and online. The competition is seen as a stepping stone on the way to features, providing the selected directors with a platform to gain credibility on the international scene and lay the foundations for their future projects. 

As part of this selection, the three shorts will be visible online from August 5 to 15. Việt Vũ will present An Act of Affection, Phạm Ngọc Lân will present Giòng sông không nhìn thấy (The Unseen River) and Linh Duong is present with Thiên đường gọi tên (A Trip to Heaven).

Director Việt Vũ (real name Phạm Quang Trung) came to image-making through workshops at Hanoi Doclab. In 2018, he made his debut fiction short, Ant-Man, which received the Purin Award for Most Promising Filmmaker from Southeast Asia at the SeaShorts Film Festival in Malaysia. Since 2019, he's been part of DOC NOMADS, a master's program of documentary film directing across Europe. An Act of Affection helped him explore the possibility of forging beauty through the form of the documentary. While making a portrait of a single gay man in Lisbon, Vũ offers his character a little gift from the bottom of his heart. This is a film about the act of filming.

Phạm Ngọc Lân is a Vietnamese film director splitting time between Hanoi and Charlotte (North Carolina, the US), with a background in urban planning and architecture. Lân’s debut short film The Story of Ones (2011) has been screened in several film festivals and art museums. His short films Another City (2016) and Blessed Land (2019) premiered in the Berlinale Shorts competition. The Unseen River (2020) is part of the anthology project Mekong 2030, a cross-border collaborative project run by the Luang Prabang Film Festival, that enlists five regional filmmakers to develop short, narrative films. The Unseen River tells the tale of an old woman traveling the Mekong upstream to a hydroelectric power plant to meet a man who was her lover for one night 30 years ago. Meanwhile, a sleepless boy goes downstream to a temple to meet a monk who cures the insomniac.

Linh Dương is a Vietnamese filmmaker fascinated by sad, angst-ridden women. She completed a series of shorts that tackle this topic with a rather quirky sense of humor. Her short film A Trip to Heaven (Thiên Đường Gọi Tên) describes a peculiar bus tour to the Mekong Delta, where a 50-year-old Madam Tam bumps into her high school sweetheart. She’s hopeful for a chance at reconciliation, but he might not be.

In a parallel program called Open Doors, the festival invites film industry professionals from focus countries to present a selection of films and ongoing projects. The participants include both fledgling talents, taking their first steps on the international stage after being noticed during the section’s travels around the region; and well-known and established directors. Through activities such as panel discussions, a round table and meetings with industry players, the Locarno 2020 audience and film professionals will have an opportunity to learn about these filmmaking talents first-hand, gaining insights into their art, stories and cultures. The new digital format will enhance the flexibility and accessibility of the Open Doors offering, making it possible to open up the activities to movie fans and “virtual attendees” from the industry worldwide.

As part of the co-production platform Open Doors Hub, Phạm Thiên Ân will present Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Bên Trong Vỏ Kén Vàng) as part of the six-day tailored program alternating between pitching coaching, group discussions, one-to-one meetings, and networking activities with industry decision-makers and Festival guests.

Nguyễn Lương Hằng from EAST Films will be among the nine selected creative producers participating in the Open Doors Lab, a talent incubator for the new generation of creative producers in the region, it offers its participants a professional platform that allows them to better understand the specificities and possibilities of the international market, also encouraging discussion and sharing of ideas, experiences and best practices.

For the full program, check out the festival's website.

[Top image: A scene from Phạm Ngọc Lân's The Unseen River]

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