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The Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) and UCLA's own VietNamese Language & Culture (VNLC) present a screening of Charlie Nguyen's charming romantic comedy "Chances Are" in order to kick off the second biannual Vietnamese International Film Festival. Coming April 2005 to a UC Irvine campus near you.
Five years after it was made, Vat Doi Sao Doi (Chances Are) is still a fan favorite among the Vietnamese community. Shot in Vietnam, this charming romantic comedy follows a Vietnamese American man named Huy (played by comedian Van Son) who gets mixed up in his friends' bachelor party shenanigans and ends up stranded in the middle of nowhere the night before his wedding -- no wallet, no pants, no idea how to get back. Fearing his crazy, shrill fiancee will kill him if she finds out he was gone, Huy spends the entirety of the film scrambling to find a way home.
Subtle clues lead us to believe that maybe this wedding is not meant to be. For example, his wife-to-be is only marrying him so she can go to America and become a famous singer. She thinks he's a successful architect and would flip out if she found out he was merely a poor photographer. And to top it all off, Huy happens to make a once-in-a-lifetime connection -- less than 12 hours before his wedding -- with a nice, super-cute Vietnamese girl (played by "Tawny" Thanh Truc Nguyen, Charlie's sister), who is clearly out of his league but is drawn to him anyways and wants to help him get back. Chances are... he might go with the nice, super-cute Vietnamese girl.
As romantic comedies go, this one lives up to the requisite cheesiness, as the two love interests bicker and fight and hate each other with a passion, before they start "pretending" to hate each other out of stubbornness, before they start desperately fighting off the "oh, I kind of like him, but why?" urges, before they ultimately succumb to the dramatic music, gorgeous surroundings and starry-eyed gazes that can only come from someone who understands them more than they understand themselves. And although, as an audience member, part of you doesn't want to support the respectable girl falling for the silly, silly, pants-less man, you realize that it's just a movie. And while he ain't no Ewan McGregor, you just want the two of them to be happy. And really, this is a nice movie to showcase the beauty of Vietnam and encourage the emergence of talented Vietnamese film and filmmakers -- who are about to make a splash at the second ViFF, the 2005 Vietnamese International Film Festival.
Director Charlie Nguyen and producer Lam Nguyen joined a crowd of Vietnamese film appreciators for a Q&A after the special March 17th screening of the film at UCLA, where Charlie discussed the sparse budget they had to work with, the ups and downs of shooting in Vietnam, and the unexpected delight they had working with an admittedly amateurish crew who only sometimes knew what they were doing. At the time, Charlie's work had primarily been in music videos, and he was itching to make a film. Working off a script that Charlie had written, Van Son came aboard, along with his high-energy comedic antics, and with the little money they had, the cast and crew flew to Vietnam, working long hours in massive heat in order to make this little movie.
Although the success and likability of the final product hints that they overcame their obstacles, Charlie still jokes that, out of their $35,000 production, $30,000 of it went to Van Son -- so they actually had a $5,000 production. For more of the Q&A, click on APA's film edit of the event. (Coming Soon)
As for the upcoming Vietnamese International Film Festival, the theme is "Beyond Boundaries," celebrating Vietnamese cinema and sharing universal Vietnamese stories, whether it's about history or relating to contemporary issues of the Vietnamese and Vietnamese diaspora. APA talks to ViFF Associate Festival Director, Jenni Trang Le, to get the details.
Article by Ada Tseng
Interviewed by Ada Tseng
Video Edit by Florence Ip
Transcription by Ada Tseng
APA: So how come you guys picked Chances Are as the movie to screen tonight?
Jenni Trang Le: If you look at the record of how many Vietnamese-produced films there are, especially Vietnamese-American, there's not very many. And seeing as Chances Are was one of our favorites, and that it's a comedy, we thought it'd be easy to screen. And we know Charlie very well, so we wanted them to come out. So because it's a good film, and we felt like the audience would get it, and it's very Vietnamese-American -- at least it is to me. The essence of it is familiar and it was something I felt I related to. And also, I feel like anytime I see Vietnamese people on the screen, it's like, "Wow," you know? Vietnamese people making a movie. You don't see that very often. Most foreign films, if they're Asian, they're Chinese or Japanese or Korean, you don't see very many Vietnamese films. So to see one I really liked, it was great. And I liked the humor. I really liked the Phuong character; she was quirky and there's some angles I really liked, and I'm a sucker for romantic comedies. And I enjoyed the fact that it was in Vietnam, so it was a glimpse of the country, the motherland.
APA: So, this film is to kick off the Vietnamese International Film Festival?
JTL: Yeah, definitely. We're trying to promote ViFF, it's coming up in about three weeks, and we're trying to get people excited about different films we have coming at ViFF, just so people start thinking "Ah, Vietnamese film!" Cause it's not something that people always think about.
APA: Can you tell us a little about ViFF?
JTL: It started out in 2003, and this year is our second one, so we're trying to do it every other year. We basically began the film festival for the community, and that's why we don't have it in L.A. Most film festivals are in L.A., but our aim isn't necessarily to be schmoozing and make money or anything like that, because it's more for the community. Because, as a minority group, and a relatively new one -- we've been here for about 30 years -- we want to create an environment that's very supportive. Most filmmakers and people who are involved in ViFF will say that we're very close-knit. We're very attentive and very personal, and we make them feel like there's a community here. Not everybody's a professional, not everyone went to film school. Some are really professional, and some are really amazing, but all of them have a lot of heart. And also, for the community to open up -- because in the Vietnamese community, art is really new. In the end, it's to tell stories. We don't tell enough stories, and it's really important in our community to tell stories to heal, because it's been 30 years, and I still haven't heard all the ghost stories, and I still don't know everything about the war, because people don't like to talk about it, and it's just a way to start the healing process.
For more of the Q&A with Charlie Nguyen and Lam Nguyen and the interview with Jenni Trang Le, click on APA's film edit of the event. (Coming Soon)
ViFF 2005: Beyond Boundaries
When: April 7-10, 14-17
Where: multiple locations, but mainly at the UC Irvine campus.
What: Eight-day long film festival, with both feature and short films --narrative, experimental, documentary, and animation/graphics-- as well as seminars, workshops/symposiums, and Q&A sessions.
Check out the trailer for the film festival, plus other information, at www.vietfilmfest.com.
Date Posted: 3/24/2005