Animation director Nguyễn Thị Phương Hoa. — Photo thethaovanhoa.vn
Animated film director Nguyễn Thị Phương Hoa’s latest film Khuc Gỗ Mục (Rotten Wood) won a Dế Men Award. The annual awards encourage compositions, art performances and entertainment shows by children or for children.
Hoa is a prolific filmmaker and has won top prizes from the Viet Nam National Film Festival and the Viet Nam Cinematography Association.
Thể Thao Văn Hóa (Culture & Sport) newspaper interviews Hoa about the Vietnamese animation industry.
You retired a long time ago. Why did you return to make a new animation?
I have been retired since 2012. About two years ago, the Viet Nam Animation Studio invited me to be one of the art council’s members. When I worked with the studio they ask me if I had a script. And I gave them my script. The studio was interested in the script because of its moving story.
The animation script was approved by the Department of Cinematography and the studio asked me to make the animation.
One time, I read a short story by one of my friends, a retired engineer colonel. It is interesting and inspires me a lot. He and I adapted it together for the animation script.
The story is about a piece of rotten wood that was once the most important part of the bow of a large ship. It once led the boat through ocean waves to go everywhere, conquering many foreign lands.
Life goes on, by chance, a bird comes to shelter from the rain and the wood has feelings again by finding itself useful for the little bird.
It is the affection of the elderly for younger people that is always about protection and even sacrifice. That love is always hidden in every person with quiet sacrifice.
In the animation, perhaps only the little bird knows the importance of the rotten wood.
What difficulties does the Vietnamese animation industry face to win over viewers?
In fact, Vietnamese animation is now quite good in terms of technique and expression. There are many lovely films. Luckily, now there is YouTube, otherwise, it would be difficult to reach the audience.
The studio's animations are humane, highly educational and attract millions of views. It is also meaningful to popularise the studio's animations.
I don't think it is difficult for Vietnamese animation to approach audiences. I see that children are eager to see animations but the output of Vietnamese animation is too little compared to the demand.
Children need to watch several animations every day. One is not enough. The studio produces about 20 episodes a year more than 200 minutes in length. If the audience watches only one episode a day, in less than a month there will be nothing more to watch.
Due to the small number of animations, it is difficult for the audience to remember the films. If we have projects with hundreds of episodes shown continuously, children will enjoy watching.
Foreign animations are simple but very good and useful for children. We can do the same by telling stories close to Vietnamese children.
New animation Khuc Gỗ Mục (Rotten Wood) by director Nguyễn Thị Phương Hoa. — Photo from Facebook of artist
What does Viet Nam lack to make such a series?
The script is always important. But I think, we lack sponsors to invest money to carry out long-term projects. Who can invest in 100-200 episodes of animation? Even if it's a simple series, not too picky or complicated.
Investors do everything for economic efficiency while making animations for children brings spiritual value.
If only investors loved to pour money into making animations for children. It is like doing useful work for society.
I always believe that at a certain point Vietnamese animation will make profits because every parent wants their children to watch animations.
I think the Vietnamese animation industry is able to produce animation series that are interesting with Vietnamese characteristics.
What about animations for screening in cinemas?
Viet Nam has only had one animated film screened in cinemas. It is Người Con Của Rồng (Son of the Dragon) directed by Phạm Minh Trí. It was released in 2010 at the Kim Đồng Cinema on the occasion of celebrating the Thăng Long Citadel’s 1,000th birthday.
I often joke with director Trí that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Vietnamese animation. Hopefully, in the near future, animations will be shown in the theatre again.
Technical equipment and our technology are better than before but not compared to other countries.
For example, 10 years ago when Chinese studious were making animations they had experts write their own software for the special effects they wanted to do.
In Viet Nam we have to buy the copyright of those software but the price is expensive. In general, it is very difficult.
We keep asking why are there no typical characters of Vietnamese animations. In fact, each episode has 10 minutes and the audience can not yet remember the characters. If there are hundreds of episodes they will remember.
You once shared about an animation project with young people to show online. Could you tell us about it?
We've made five episodes that are broadcast on YouTube. Currently, it is paused due to the difficult financial situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We make animations for children without profit. I think that not many filmmakers can do this like me because now I'm not worried about earning a living anymore.
I want to make a Vietnamese animation series. VNS
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