A big-budget television series about the king who founded Hanoi will not be shown during the city’s millennium celebrations after concerns were raised that it looks too Chinese.
Relations with its giant neighbor evoke strong emotions and contradictions in Vietnam, where many bitterly recall 1,000 years of Chinese occupation and, more recently, a 1979 border war.
“We cannot launch it on the millennium celebration, especially when the film is controversial,” said Le Ngoc Minh, a deputy director with the government’s cinema department.
While Vietnamese routinely express dislike for the Chinese, the country’s culture has been greatly influenced by China, and Chinese historical movies are prominent on the country’s screens.
Ta Huy Cuong, a Vietnamese director for the controversial series, said censors asked the producers to cut scenes that looked similar to Chinese films and “may easily cause misunderstanding.”
“We are sad, as this film is not ready to be shown at this point in time,” said Cuong, who confirmed that he was working under a Chinese director.
The series titled Ly Cong Uan — Duong Toi Thanh Thang Long (Ly Cong Uan — The Road to Thang Long Citadel) was shot mostly in China for about 100 billion dong (US$5.3 million), people involved with the film said.
That is a large sum for a Vietnamese production.
Ly Cong Uan, whose royal name was Ly Thai To, moved the capital of Vietnam from Ninh Binh to Hanoi in 1010 and called it Thang Long, or “soaring dragon,” symbolizing the desire for independence after a millennium of Chinese domination.
Hanoi on Friday began celebrations, which end on Sunday, to mark the city’s 1,000th birthday.
Thousands have nightly crowded into the city center around Hoan Kiem lake to soak up the millennium atmosphere and light show.
Cuong said he felt a passion to make the series “on this important occasion” to promote understanding of the city’s history. He said he wanted it shown on the state Vietnam Television, which broadcasts nationally.
Asked why a key television series about Vietnamese history would be shot in China, he suggested production facilities in his homeland were not developed enough.
“If you organize a wedding and your house is small, without seats, I think it’s understandable that you have to borrow your neighbor’s house,” said Cuong, who works for a private production company.
“Some have blasted the serial as a ‘Chinese film in Vietnamese,’” an editorial in a state-linked Vietnamese newspaper said.
“Projected as one of the main productions celebrating Hanoi’s millennial anniversary this month ... it should have been Vietnamese all the way through, from the cast to the production team.”
The editorial said the series “has attracted a lot of controversy and criticism since its trailer was revealed on the Internet last month.”
Cuong said people have been too quick to judge.
“They made comments after watching the trailer, while we haven’t finished the film yet,” he said.
Many comments to online news sites in Vietnam have expressed concern about the Chinese style of the production.
Minh, of the cinema department, said that although the main actors and actresses were Vietnamese, some Chinese people and scenes were used.
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