Vietnam News

Filmmakers want classification to replace censorship

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Filmmakers have called for classifying movies based on viewers’ ages instead of censoring them or prohibiting their screening.

Censorship was the main topic in an online discussion titled ‘Ai Gop Y Gio Tay Len’ (Raise Your Hand If You Want To Speak Up) this week between many members of the film industry.

Nguyen Hoang Diep, director and a member of the National Film Evaluation Council since April, said the censorship process has problems like unclear regulations.

Speakers recalled how films such as ‘Cyclo’ (directed by Tran Anh Hung) and ‘Bui Doi Cho Lon’ (Charlie Nguyen) were banned in the past.

‘Rom’ director Tran Dung Thanh Huy said the film had to be cut and edited a lot to meet censors’ requirements, affecting its plot and artistic goals.

Many movies have been similarly mangled to meet the censors’ requirements.

For instance, violent scenes had to be excised from ‘Trai Tim Quai Vat’ (Monster Heart) though it was a horror movie.

Director Nguyen Hoang Diep said the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism should be more open to movies like web series.

At a National Assembly debate on September 14 on amendments to the Law on Cinema, culture minister Nguyen Van Hung had suggested web series makers should censor themselves and take responsibility, and authorities will supervise the final result.

In a seeming reference to this, Diep lamented: “We open the door to (movies on) the Internet but straitjacket the movie industry. Movies in theaters have a much smaller audience than on the Internet”.

Director Phan Dang Di said he would soon write to the National Assembly on behalf of the panelists on the show, drawing practical experience and learning from other countries.

They wanted the law, which will be amended in October, to spell out what could or could not go into a movie and avoid ambiguity so that its provisions could not be subjectively applied.

They suggested changing the name of the censorship body to the Cinema Ethics Council and have professional filmmakers on it, and having its branches in the south and north. They need to record and publicize their works, including discussions, members’ opinions, reasons to classify movies, and other actions, they said.

But the cinema authorities have their own opinions.

On September 27 director of the Cinema Department under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Vi Kien Thanh, said the proposal to remove screening prohibitions is unreasonable and incorrect.

“I understand what filmmakers are wondering. However, in the 14 years since the Law on Cinema was passed, hundreds of films have been produced and shown in cinemas, filmmakers are all based on that to work. The draft of the law will concretize many points, not prohibiting or causing difficulties for them.”

The National Film Evaluation Council brings together voices from many different backgrounds, from producers, directors to independent filmmakers. They all try to understand producers, and evaluate movies with open minds, pursuing the goal of promoting the Vietnamese movie industry’s development, Thanh said.

Previously, Trinh Thanh Nha, a screenwriter with five years’ experience who sits in the council, said sometimes members have to watch two films in a day. “The censors have to watch and listen to every detail because any carelessness could cause them to miss something vital.”

All the movies released in Vietnam — around 200 foreign and 40 Vietnamese annually — are assessed by this 11-member council, which makes for a huge workload.

The Law on Cinema was passed in 2006 amended once in 2009. Lawmakers will consider further amendments to the law and vote on them at a session starting at the end of October.

By Ha Thu – – September 29, 2021

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