Director Victor Vũ On Illuminating Vietnamese Culture Through Cinema | Vietcetera
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Jun 07, 2024

Director Victor Vũ On Illuminating Vietnamese Culture Through Cinema

Director Victor Vũ expressed, "The film industry is wonderful for the collaborative effort of many individuals, which is truly inspiring. Directing brings me boundless joy."
Director Victor Vũ On Illuminating Vietnamese Culture Through Cinema

Source: Bobby Vũ for Vietcetera

Director Victor Vũ has left an indelible mark on the Vietnamese film industry with a portfolio of many genres. His work ranges from the historical drama (Blood Letter) to the comedy (Battle of the Brides), the horror movie (Vengeful Heart), and adaptations like Dreamy Eyes and Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass.

Over 15 years of filmmaking in Vietnam, director Victor Vũ has pursued his goal of bringing Vietnamese culture to a global audience through his films. As an expatriate, his motivation stems from a childhood longing to understand, appreciate, and show the beauty of his homeland's culture to the world.

Victor admits he rarely appears in the media, likely because he dedicates all his time and energy to filmmaking. While one of his movies is still in theaters, he is already working on his next project. His love for visual storytelling keeps him constantly engaged, whether he is directing on set or appearing as a guest on shows like Have A Sip.

In a conversation with host Thùy Minh, Victor shared insights into his directorial career, his journey in developing a passion for movies, and his personal growth. He shared about transforming from a boy with many suppressed emotions into a steadfast film director who performs well under pressure.

Source: Bobby Vũ for Vietcetera

Unconventional journey of a Vietnamese boy in America

At the age of 7, Victor Vũ discovered his passion for cinema after watching a Steven Spielberg movie at the theater. Although young Victor didn't know he would eventually become a director, actor, or screenwriter, he knew he wanted to be part of the film industry.

This love for cinema began to grow, leading him to practice storytelling by writing comics and short scripts. Turning 11, he used a camera to film his "first works" at home. The cast? His relatives and neighbors.

Cinema, or visual storytelling in general, became an outlet for an introverted boy who often left his thoughts unspoken. Bao was raised in a single-parent household without a father figure. His childhood revolved around the need for a confidant. As a result, he turned inward, channeling his thoughts and emotions into writing, painting, and artistic pursuits.

This inner world nurtured a future director with a deep love for art but also resulted in a boy with bottled-up emotions and a quick temper. He describes his childhood self as "passive-aggressive," often burying his feelings, which would eventually erupt, causing hurt to those around him.

However, the artistic path also instilled in Victor qualities of patience, calmness, and resilience. This foundation made his determination to pursue a film career from high school feel natural.

Source: Bobby Vũ for Vietcetera

Enrolling in film school was a bold decision, especially for his family, who had faced many hardships as immigrants. His mother, while supportive of his dreams, couldn’t help but worry about the risks involved. No one in their circles had taken such an expensive and uncertain path that was typically reserved for the affluent.

Fortunately, Victor secured a scholarship. He also worked part-time during weekends and summers, saving money to create his first short films.

It was during these trying times at university that Victor truly embraced his role as a director. His mission crystallized: to share the stories of his homeland, stories that had been passed down through his family but which he had yet to fully explore himself.

Crafting historical films to honor Vietnamese cultural splendor

From his early years to his time in film school, director Victor Vũ's understanding of Vietnam came from his family, books, and war movies. Yet, he couldn't help but notice the skewed portrayal of Vietnamese people in American cinema—a portrayal colored by Western perspectives. Driven by his deep love for Vietnamese culture, he felt a strong urge to change this narrative.

Reflecting on the cinematic landscape, he found himself questioning why Vietnamese characters were often silenced and their narratives rarely developed. He pondered the prevalence of a Western lens dominating their stories. This realization spurred his determination to make films that reflected his homeland.

Source: Bobby Vũ for Vietcetera

The first short film he made in school was based entirely on a story his mother had shared with him. Reflecting on this work during a conversation on Have A Sip, Victor recalled the profound emotions it evoked and his resolve to expand it into a movie. He remarked that if the film could have been produced in Vietnam, it would have been even better.

Making films about Vietnam with Vietnamese actors in the US posed significant challenges and limitations. However, the most important thing was that he stayed true to his vision and his connection to his homeland.

This motivation drives him to create historical films, including his latest project, The Last Wife, set to premiere on November 3, 2023. For him, historical films serve as a powerful medium to showcase the beauty of Vietnamese culture.

The Last Wife was adapted from the novel Hồ Oán Hận, which captivated Victor with its medieval story, rich in familiar elements that resonate with modern audiences and explore timeless themes of love and happiness within a feudal context.

He acknowledges the challenges of making a historical film, including meticulous research into costumes, sets, characters, and dialogue. For Victor, the key in this genre is ensuring a delicate balance between historical accuracy and cinematic creativity.

Despite his clear artistic mission rooted in his love for cinema and Vietnamese culture, Victor also appreciates films about Vietnam tailored for foreign audiences—what he refers to as "travel films."

He firmly believes in the importance of catering to both Vietnamese and international viewers, nurturing a silent dream within him for a film that transcends cultural boundaries.

Translated by Thúy An

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