Last update 10/20/2010 12:07:45 AM (GMT+7)

Poet's biopic competes at film festival

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese film Long Thanh Cam Gia Ca (The Fate of a Songstress in Thang Long) will bring the story of a love affair between one of the country's most famous poets and a young singer to the silver screen at the Viet Nam International Film Festival.

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The film, which is in competition at the festival, is directed by Dao Ba Son, who scoured the countryside for suitable locations in preparation for filming the historical romance.

Son said his search for locations for the film, which is set at the Royal Thang Long Citadel during the 18th century, took him to the ancient town of Hoi An in the central province of Quang Nam and the imperial capital of Hue as well as to Thanh Hoa, Ninh Binh, Ha Noi and Lang Son.

"Finding suitable locations was one of the most difficult things in making the film," said Son.

The director chose to shoot several scenes in rustic Ninh Binh, while movie sets of the royal palace and mandarins' residences were specially built at the Viet Phu Art Museum in Soc Son, 40km from Ha Noi.

Son said the museum is one of the few places in the country where people can see "pure" Vietnamese architecture, including old buildings that have not been influenced by any other foreign architectural style.

"We were also lucky to find a round well in Ninh Binh Province and it was used for an important scenes related to the young singer, who tried to commit suicide by throwing herself down the well," said Son.

The movie's main character, poet Nguyen Du is known by his pen name of To Nhu. Born in 1765 in Tien Dien Village, Nghi Xuan District, Ha Tinh Province, To Nhu developed an interest in north Vietnamese folk songs at an early age.

While the poet was recognised as a cultural icon by UNESCO in 1965, this is the first time he is portrayed in a movie.

Played by actor Quach Ngoc Ngoan, To Nhu's poetry features in the film, but it's his love life that provides the main plot.

To Nhu was already married when he met singer Cam, played by singer Nhat Kim Anh. Despite the obstacles, To Nhu and Cam quickly fall in love while living at the citadel. The lovers' romance ends when they are separated due to the outbreak of civil war across the country. After ten years they meet again to spend the night together.

The movie's scriptwriter, Van Le, said he was inspired by one of To Nhu's poems to begin work on the feature film. The poem Long Thanh Cam Gia Ca (The Fate of a Songstress in Thang Long) was written by To Nhu while he was the Vietnamese ambassador to China in 1813-14.

Le said he was careful to use the original poem in the film, which is more of a meditative character exploration than an action flick.

Director Son said his team also tried to incorporate many interesting historical details into the film. These scenes include a teacher instructing young female music students how to vocalise by singing into large ceramic jars, the mystic acts of hat van (songs for spirits) and Vietnamese trance dancing.

Produced by Giai Phong Studio with a total investment of VND7 billion (US$3.8 million), the movie was released at cinemas across the country earlier this month.

Long Thanh Cam Gia Ca will compete against nine other films for the best feature film award at the Viet Nam International Film Festival. The film's competition includes Big Boy from Thailand, Break Up Club from Hong Kong, Hanamizuki from Japan, Ice Kacang Puppy Love from Malaysia, Lao Wai from China, Sand Castle from Singapore, The Dreamer from Indonesia, The Red Shoes from the Philippines, and another Vietnamese film, The Lieutenant.

The film festival runs until Thursday in Ha Noi and features 68 films from 23 countries which will compete in six main prize categories, including best feature film, best short film, best documentary, best director, best actor and best actress.

Australian director Phillip Noyce, who directed The Quiet American, will head the jury for the best feature film. Fellow judges include Vietnamese director Dang Nhat Minh, French cinematographer Francois Cantonne, Korean actress Kang Su-yeon and Marco Mueller, director of Venice International Film Festival.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News