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Vietnam Film Makers, Sans Visas, Won’t Make UCLA Fest

Times Staff Writer

Three Vietnamese film makers scheduled to come to Los Angeles for a film festival opening this weekend at UCLA will not have their visas approved by the State Department in time for their appearance at the festival.

“The Vietnam Film Project,” to be held at UCLA’s Melnitz Hall and then in New York and Washington, is intended to provide a look at the status of the film industry in Vietnam and to offer a glimpse into Vietnamese life. It will feature the North American premieres of several Vietnamese films never seen in the West.

Nguyen Thu, general director of the Vietnamese Film Department; Hai Ninh, director of the Hanoi Film Studio, and film director Hong Sen were to participate in a UCLA symposium to be held next Thursday during the festival, opening Saturday and running through April 9. At the symposium, the three men were to meet with Hollywood film makers who have made movies about Vietnam to discuss depictions of Vietnam on film.

However, UCLA officials said they have postponed the symposium until April 29, allowing the men to travel to New York and Washington first--assuming they are granted visas by the State Department.

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The “Vietnam Film Project” is sponsored jointly by the UCLA Film and Television Archive; U.S. Committee for Scientific Cooperation with Vietnam, based in Madison, Wis.; the East-West Center in Honolulu and the New York-based Asia Society.

The visa applications for the three film makers were not filed on time, according to UCLA spokesman Clifford Gallo.

“It was sort of a little problem on both sides,” said Gallo, who said UCLA officials and Vietnamese authorities both contributed to the missed deadline.

“It is more of a bureaucratic mishap than it is anything else; it’s nothing political as far as I know,” Gallo said. “They’ll definitely be coming; it’s just missed deadlines.”

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Claire Aguilar, assistant film programmer at UCLA, said school officials simply did not realize how long the visa application process takes.

Officials at the State Department said they did not receive the applications until last week and that they require 15 working days from that date to conduct background and security checks.

“What we do is send names to various agencies in U.S. government and if anybody has anything on them . . . then they let us know,” said Frances Jones, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Consular Affairs. “We also check our own records.”

A decision on whether the visas will be granted will be made on April 11, Jones said.

“Everybody’s working their hardest to get these things processed,” she said.

UCLA officials said that the postponement of the symposium will not interfere with the scheduled dates for the six films to be shown.

“It’s minor,” Aguilar said of the postponed symposium. “It might actually turn into something more positive because by then people will have had a chance to see all the films and can have a kind of big perspective on what’s happening in film in Vietnam.”

“It’s just too bad that the (film makers) won’t be here to see the audience’s reactions,” she said.

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