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Interest Surges for State-Funded Film Set During Indochina War, Reports Radio Free Asia

A film funded by the state depicting a 1947 battle between French troops and Vietnamese resistance fighters has unexpectedly captured the interest of audiences, leading to long queues at theaters and requests for wider distribution.

Titled “Dao, Pho va Piano” (Peach, Pho and Piano), the movie was released on Feb. 10, coinciding with the Vietnamese Lunar New Year holiday, Tet.

The government in Vietnam frequently uses state funds to produce films on historical themes for propaganda purposes, but these films often struggle to attract viewers and are typically taken off screens quickly, sometimes later airing on state TV.

Despite minimal advertising, the word spread on social media about the movie’s quality, leading to a surge in ticket requests that caused the website of Hanoi’s National Cinema Center to crash and long lines outside a theater in Ho Chi Minh City.

Battle of Hanoi

Set in the final days of the Battle of Hanoi, the film portrays the first clash of the First Indochina War between the French and the Viet Minh, a coalition seeking independence led by Vietnamese Communists.

A significant scene in the movie depicts a barricade in Hanoi’s ancient quarter where Vietnamese militia members use lunge mines, a type of suicide bomb against tanks, to defend against a French assault.

The sacrifice enabled Viet Minh units to retreat from the city to a region north of Hanoi, where they regrouped and eventually triumphed over the French.

A scene in the film “Dao, Pho and Piano.” (Thanhuytphcm)

The director of the film, Phi Tien Son, emphasized the lack of quality historical films in Vietnam over the years.

“The Vietnamese film industry owes the audience a lot in terms of historical content,” he stated in an interview with Vietnam Television. “I hope that my colleagues will begin to repay this debt in the future.”

Resident of Hanoi, Nguyen Hoang Anh, praised the movie for its portrayal of the elegant, tragic, and romantic aspects of life in 1940s Hanoi. However, she noted unrealistic battle scenes, exaggerated dialogue, and many illogical details that should have been clarified as a fictional representation of a historical event.

“The film conveyed a misleading message that the French intended to exterminate all residents of Hanoi, which is concerning,” she expressed. “During that era, there were options for those who chose to stay or leave.”

Extended Screenings

Despite a budget of 20 billion dong (US$812,000) for production, limited funds were allocated for marketing and distribution, reported the state-affiliated outlet VietNamNet.

Due to popular demand, the few theaters showcasing the film have expanded their daily showings from three to 15 times, as stated by state media.

By Feb. 20, the movie had generated over 1 billion dong (US$40,600) in revenue, a notable achievement for a government-backed historical film.

Last week, BETA Media distribution company agreed to release the film nationwide, confirmed Vi Kien Thanh, head of Vietnam’s Cinema Department, to VietNamNet.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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