By Phuong Lien Nguyen
Established in 2016, the Queer Vietnamese Film Festival (QVFF) is an independent film festival dedicated to celebrating the artistic and cultural contributions of the LGBTI Vietnamese community within cinema (QVFF 2018). The queer movement in Vietnam which started to surface in the 2000s, however, the film industry in Vietnam still effects from old patterns and traditional attitudes. I think that the queer movie is still scarce in big-screen when the government tends to be more obsessed with how the traditional value is portrayed. Some films had not passed the government’s review to be screened, they must choose the online platform to publish their work. Nevertheless, Vietnam is a communist country, the only way to transfer the message about LGBTI community is to legalize it. The QVFF provides a channel for movie creators who had little or no opportunities to screen their work publicly and the success of the festival is a result of its evolution. The QVFF creates space for Vietnamese’s LGBTI community to directly engage with political issues and raise the awareness about the queer cultural movement in Vietnam society. The QVFF is an example to explain the concept of counterpublic.
Counterpublics are formed as a response to the exclusions of the dominant public and that their existence better promotes the ideal of participatory parity (Fraser 2013) I argue that the film festival as a powerful emotional and intentional resource for animating moral deliberation and democratic dissent as it mediates the “stranger relationality” central to public engagement. Queer film festivals maintain a unique cultural space that movie made for LGBTI community can be screened, discussed and publicly debated.
Films have the soft power to engage with an audience and impact on the perception. On the one hand, the QVFF highlight the emotive potential of modern cinema, thus the independent film-maker can create a new way to tell their story and generate the country’s societal shift in their film. They turned the story of homosexual love into normal love stories to gain the emotions of the audience. The QVFF’s organizers define that the festival is an important momentum for the community to think about LGBTI’s life as a normal person in a different way. Furthermore, creating a unique festival image can get attention from the audience and build the reputation in the global movie industry. Many young movie-makers in Vietnam take the advantage of the film festival to generate the new image of a small industry
On the other hand, Vietnam must face with the challenge of small market size and the lack of human resources in producing and distributing the queer film. The producers understand that the festival exhibition as a key channel for reaching and connecting with people, however, they also realize the concerns about the distribution and costs required. In the case of QVFF, the film festival must receive the support from the international organization and have an American tour before launching in Vietnam. When I am looking at the list of the movie in QVFF, I also find that most movies are published a long time ago. Independent film-maker in Vietnam hardly finds the financial support to produce and launch the movie in the mainstream media. Vietnam queer movie industry is still new and young, thus the QVFF can open an opportunity for film-maker in Vietnam to generate their product to a bigger community and gain more attention from the sponsor. Furthermore, the community can have a space to identify their own value and change the society’s perception of the LGBTI community.
Fraser, N 2013, “Rethinking the public sphere: A contribution to the critical of actually existing democracy”, Social Text.
Queer Vietnamese Film Festival, https://www.qvff.org/