The Vietnamese film industry, despite its rich cultural heritage and burgeoning talent pool, grapples with a host of formidable challenges that have impeded its growth and global recognition.
Over the past 20 years, Vietnamese cinema has developed, but it is still a slow progress, and filmmakers still face many difficulties. These obstacles, spanning from limited financial resources and production constraints to issues of content diversity and distribution inefficiencies, paint a complex landscape for the industry’s advancement. In order to realize its full potential and position itself on the international stage, the Vietnamese film sector must navigate these difficulties with innovation, strategic planning, and collaborative efforts.
From lack of financial support to weakness in long-term investment strategy
One of the most pressing issues is the constraint of financial resources. Despite the passion and creativity of local filmmakers, the industry often grapples with limited funding for ambitious projects. The absence of substantial investment not only hampers the production of high-quality films but also restricts the exploration of innovative narratives and diverse genres. This financial strain trickles down to affect areas like equipment quality, post-production capabilities, and marketing efforts.
Moreover, production constraints pose a significant hurdle. Limited access to state-of-the-art technology and professional expertise can hinder the creation of visually stunning and technically impressive films. This, in turn, affects the industry’s competitiveness on the global stage, where audience expectations are continually evolving.
Content diversity is another area that requires attention. Many Vietnamese films tend to gravitate towards similar themes, potentially leading to saturation in the market. While stories steeped in cultural heritage are valuable, there is a need for a broader range of narratives that can appeal to both domestic and international audiences. The exploration of contemporary issues, experimental storytelling techniques, and cross-cultural collaborations can inject fresh vitality into the industry.
Distribution inefficiencies further exacerbate the challenges. Limited access to international distribution networks and a lack of effective marketing strategies have resulted in Vietnamese films struggling to find their way onto global screens. Overcoming language barriers and cultural differences is pivotal for films to resonate with audiences beyond the domestic market.
Also, the Vietnamese film industry has struggled with a noticeable lack of strategic investment and support from the Government. While the industry possesses immense potential, the absence of a comprehensive investment strategy has hindered its growth and global recognition. Adequate funding and incentives for filmmakers, production houses, and infrastructure development are crucial to nurturing local talent, promoting diverse content creation, and elevating the industry’s standing on the international stage. Addressing this deficiency in investment strategy is pivotal to unlocking the full potential of Vietnam’s cinematic prowess and fostering a thriving film ecosystem.
Short films and long-distance dreams of young filmmakers
CJ Group and CGV’s efforts to promote the Vietnamese film industry through initiatives like the CJ Short Film project, Scriptwriting contest, and Toto Filmmaking Class, or “Autumn Meeting” and “In Cinema We Trust” (enhances with Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) have not been without challenges.
Especially, this supporting journey of CJ has been continued for years, since 2013. We have not done it for benefits. We do it for purely good will. These endeavors, while impactful, have encountered certain complexities that underscore the commitment required to uplift the local cinematic landscape. Young directors are financially supported with filming the works, winning ones will be sent to Korea for deep-dive training, and their short films will have the opportunity to compete at international film festivals. Until now, short films completed within the framework of the program have been selected to be screened in CGV cinemas, and won prizes at more than 50 leading film festivals in the world such as Berlin Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, and Busan Film Festival.
One of the primary concerns revolves around identifying and nurturing emerging talent. While these initiatives aim to provide platforms for aspiring filmmakers and scriptwriters, the process of discovering untapped creativity can be intricate. CJ and CGV face the challenge of ensuring that their selection processes are fair, transparent, and capable of recognizing potential amidst a sea of submissions, for sustainable growth of the Vietnamese filming industry.
Additionally, striking a balance between artistic freedom and commercial viability can be demanding. Encouraging creative expression and pushing boundaries is vital for the growth of the industry, but it also necessitates thoughtful curation to ensure that the content resonates with audiences and contributes to the overall cinematic landscape.
Financial considerations are also a key aspect. Organizing contests, classes, and projects requires resources, and CJ and CGV must weigh the allocation of funds between supporting these initiatives and ensuring their sustainability. Finding the optimal balance between financial investments and impactful outcomes can be a delicate process.
Furthermore, the effectiveness of these initiatives hinges on the willingness of filmmakers and participants to embrace change and new approaches. Convincing individuals to explore unconventional storytelling methods, embrace new techniques, or adjust their perceptions of filmmaking can be met with resistance, as it involves shifting established mindsets.
Need a positive strategy from the Government and the Vietnamese audience
To tell the truth, there are not many enterprises that persist and persevere with the Vietnamese filming industry. Many young Vietnamese talents in the filming industry are alone on their own artistic journey. Vietnamese cinema is not rare for young filmmaking talents. This year, director Pham Thien An excellently won the Camera d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. Few people know that Pham Thien An grew up from the CJ Short Film Project and his debut work at that time, “Stay awake, Be ready”, won Illy prize at Cannes Film Festival 2019.
Hence, a well-conceived long-term investment strategy for the Vietnamese film industry is not only necessary but also holds the potential to catalyze multifaceted growth for the nation. Through strategic interventions, the Government can empower filmmakers, bolster cultural pride, stimulate economic prosperity, and amplify Vietnam’s voice on the global cinematic stage. As we look ahead, this strategy serves as a roadmap towards realizing the full spectrum of benefits that a thriving film industry can bring to the nation and its people.
(*) Nguyen Hoang Hai is chief content officer (COO) of CJ CGV Vietnam