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Viet Film Fest returns for its 10th edition

Viet Film Fest returns for its 10th edition
A scene from “Summer in Closed Eyes” featuring Takafumi Akutsu, who plays Akira, and Phuong Anh Dao, who plays Ha (Summer). The cross-cultural love story directed by Cao Thuy Nhi is set in Hokkaido, Japan. The film will open the 10th annual Viet Film Fest Oct. 12. (Photo courtesy of the Viet Film Fest)

A popular local film festival that went on hiatus last year is coming back next month with renewed energy and purpose.

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The 10th Viet Film Fest, organized by the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Assoc., will run Oct. 12-14 at AMC Orange 30 at the Outlets at Orange.

The festival will screen 30 films from around the world — 13 features and 17 shorts. The fest will also present panels, Q&A sessions, opening and closing receptions, an awards ceremony and a free “Youth in Motion” program.

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“We want to be a platform to encourage immersion filmmakers,” said festival director Thuy-Van Nguyen. “At the same time, filmmaking is an art in which our voice is heard. When I watch certain movies and see a familiar face, a Vietnamese face, an Asian face, I feel like I can relate to that person. That’s my voice being heard.”

The Viet Film Fest has also become an important platform — the largest outside of Vietnam — for Vietnamese filmmakers to showcase their work, Nguyen said.

“I believe it is an important part of the culture here in Orange County,” Nguyen said.

Organizers, filmmakers and about 240 community members attended a red carpet launch party Sept. 9 at AMC Orange 30. The program included performances by pop singer Diem Lien, keyboardist Uyen Phuong, singer and DJ Kim Thanh and Melione, a Vietnamese American hip hop artist.

“I’m very grateful they asked me to come back,” said Melione, a Garden Grove native who performed for the fest’s last launch party in 2016. “In general, Vietnamese people need more opportunities and more outlets, especially in the entertainment industry. I don’t think we’re represented often or represented well.”

After red carpet arrivals and some opening comments and performances, the festival presented a video introducing the 2018 lineup to the audience, which was comprised mostly of Vietnamese Americans. Opening the festival on Oct. 12 will be “Summer in Closed Eyes,” directed by Cao Thuy Nhi, a cross-cultural love story set in Hokkaido, Japan.

Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s “The Island,” screening Oct. 13, was shot entirely in Pulau Bidong, the largest and longest-running refugee camp after the Vietnam War.

“Actress Wanted,” directed by Minh Duc Nguyen, was filmed completely in Orange County. It’s a domestic thriller that will make its world premiere Oct. 13 during the festival.

Other highlights include a retrospective presentation of “The Purple Horizon,” originally released in 1971; screenings of the Vietnamese box-office hits “The Girl From Yesterday,” “100 Days of Sunshine” and “Go Go Sisters”; “Farewell Halong,” the fest’s sole documentary feature, a German production spotlighting the displacement of Ha Long Bay villagers by the Vietnamese government; and “The Way Station,” directed by popular Vietnamese actress Pham Thi Hong Anh. She will be present at the Oct. 14 screening.

“Hanh, Solo” on Oct. 13 will showcase the Vietnamese American millennial voice. Star, producer and co-writer Hanh Nguyen will attend the comedy screening.

On Oct. 14, the fest will present “Kiss and Spell,” a film and program honoring the late Stephane Gauger, an Orange County filmmaker and graduate of Cal State Fullerton who died in January after suffering a stroke at 48. “Kiss and Spell” was his final feature.

Closing the festival at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 will be “Murder in the Lens,” in the rare-for-Vietnam genre of crime-thriller and film noir.

This year, more than 50% of the films at the Viet Film Fest were either directed or produced by women. Organizers say this reflects the ongoing momentum of the #MeToo, #OscarsSoWhite and Time’s Up movements.

The festival started in 2003 as the biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival. In 2013, the event switched to an annual format, presenting works by Vietnamese filmmakers every April. After skipping 2017 to regroup and re-organize, the Viet Film Fest was moved to October.

“We were competing with too many other events in April,” said Ysa Le, executive director of VAALA. “It was also hard to schedule events for students during spring break.”

Tickets for the film fest are $13 for general admission, $11 for students and seniors, and $15 for opening or closing nights. Admission to the opening or closing parties is $50. An all-access badge is $250.

For tickets or more information, visit vietfilmfest.com.

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