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Vietnam’s cinematic landscape will reach a new milestone when the first Ho Chi Minh City International Film Festival (HIFF) rolls out the red carpet to welcome filmmakers and guests from April 6-13.

The country’s long overdue cinema law was finally revised last year and now permits local city governments to host international film festivals. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s largest city, seized this opportunity to organise its inaugural international film festival.

“This collaboration highlights the close partnership between governmental bodies and private companies, facilitated by an open policy allowing private entities to participate in government social projects,” says HIFF executive director Pham Minh Toan.

His event company Vietfest, which specialises in running large-scale entertainment and cultural projects, has previously collaborated with the Department of Culture and Sports of HCMC on several major events such as the Ho Chi Minh City International Music Festival (HOZO). Three successful editions have been held for HOZO since 2019, with latest hosting 250 artists and 150,000 attendees.

Toan and long-time collaborator Do Hoa have spent the past few years cultivating the idea of an international film festival in Vietnam. “We established Vietfest, which stands for Vietnam Festival, to organise multiple type of festivals, including film,” says Hoa, who is HIFF deputy executive director. “We believed the time for a film festival in HCMC would come and have included activities related to film festivals in our agenda during business trips.”

Toan and Hoa attended the Hong Kong International Film Festival in 2019, but Covid put a stop to overseas travelling until they visited South Korea’s Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) in 2022. Last year, they returned to Busan and travelled to Singapore and Indonesia to immerse themselves in various cultures and attend music and film festivals to gain insight and knowledge.

While many experts they met have expressed support, Toan says that the prevailing sentiment was often a cautious ‘wait and see’ approach. However, key figures such as filmmakers Phan Dang Di and Charlie Nguyen as well as film critic Le Hong Lam in Vietnam, alongside BIFF founder Kim Dong-ho and producer Jay Choi in South Korea and programmer Anderson Le in the US, provided steadfast support regardless of the uncertainties. They are all part of the HIFF team in advisory and other key roles.

After almost two years of networking and outreach, HIFF staged its international launch in Busan in October, with a few hundred guests in attendance at the Vietnam Night. “We have garnered significant support from local and international filmmakers and experts, notably from France and Korea,” says Toan. “This has instilled confidence in us to successfully execute the first edition at the current scale.”

Star guests

The inaugural HIFF will showcase more than 100 films over eight days through various sections such as a Southeast Asia competition, the first or second film competition and Vietnam Panorama. Industry events are also in place, from talks, workshops to a project market and a script lab.

Prominent guests set to participate include France-based director Anne Fontaine of opening film Bolero with her actor Raphaël Personnaz, Korean director Kim Han-min with his actors Park Myunghoon and Jung Jaeyoung from Noryang: Deadly Sea and Palme d’Or-winning Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. Olivier Pere, Janice Chua, Tom Cross and Samuel Jamier are among the jury for the competitions.

Toan and Hoa are veterans marketing experts. They co-founded marketing agency Time Universal two decades ago, which would become the first company of the Time Group. Toan is chairman of Time Group, which comprises eight subsidiaries in the creative industry, including Vietfest, which apart from HOZO, is the organiser of Manga Comic Con Vietnam, Vietnam Classical Music Festival, Vietnam Design Week and more.

Despite their vast experience in organising big events, the journey is not without challenges as newcomers to the film industry. Toan admits: “Our biggest challenges stem from our limited understanding of how the film industry operates, compounded by the prevailing confusion in the Vietnamese market regarding cinema awards and film festivals. This has led to unexpected hurdles during implementation.

“Educating our audience about these new concepts has proven to be a significant undertaking, as many are unfamiliar with the intricacies of such events. There are numerous complexities involved, making it difficult to address everything in one response.”



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The Gospel Of The Beast, directed by the Philippines’ Sheron Dayoc, picked up the Golden Star Award for Best Southeast Asian Film at the first edition of the Ho Chi Minh City International Film Festival (HIFF) in Vietnam

Nicole Midori Woodford’s Singapore-Japan collaboration, Last Shadow At First Light, won multiple awards in the festival’s Southeast Asia competition, including the Jury Prize, best cinematography (Hideho Urata), best screenplay (Nicole Midori Woodford) and best visual effects (Laokoon VFX). 

Oasis Of Now, directed by Malaysia’s Chee Sum Chia, took awards for best director and best actress for Vietnam’s Tạ Thị Dịu, who plays an immigrant in the film. Singaporean drama Wonderland won awards for best actor (Mark Lee) and best supporting actor (Peter Yu), while best supporting actress to Rawipa Srisanguan for Thailand’s Solids By The Seashore

Indonesian action drama 13 Bombs was awarded with best sound design (Wahyu Tri Pournomo) and best editing (Hendra Adhi Sussanto). Cambodian drama Tenement won best production design (Jean-Sien Kin) while Japan-Philippines co-production Blue Imagine took best original score (Yuji Wantanabe). 

Best film in the First or Second Film Competition (for films from outside Southeast Asia) went to Mongolia’s Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir for City Of Wind and Saudi filmmaker Ali Kalthami for Night Courier. Best short film was awarded to Leila, from Fariba Haidari, with Alien 0089 from Valeria Hofmann taking the Jury Prize. Song Lang was presented with the Best Ho Chi Minh City Film award.

The festival, which ran April 6-13, was made possible by a recent change to Vietnam’s Cinema Law enabling local city governments to host film festivals for the first time. It was organised by Ho Chi Minh City government and private events company Vietfest, which also organises music, design and manga festivals in Vietnam. 

Festival toppers include executive director Pham Minh Toan, deputy executive director Do Hoa, artistic director Nguyen Vinh Son and deputy artistic director Aaron Toronto, with Anderson Le as head of programming.

HIFF also incorporated an existing industry event, Autumn Meeting, which presented 15 projects to potential partners and investors, and a script lab headed by filmmakers Charles Nguyen and Phan Gia Nhat Linh, which selected ten Vietnamese projects. 

Autumn Meeting, which usually takes place in Danang in November, was founded by producer Tran Thi Bich Ngoc and director Phan Dang Di, and has Cannes winning director Tran Ang Hung (The Taste Of Things) as a regular mentor.



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Ho Chi Minh City – April 4, 2024 – The inaugural Ho Chi Minh City International Film Festival (HIFF 2024), organized by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee and in collaboration with the Department of Culture and Sports and VietFest, will officially open on April 6, 2024. For the first time, Ho Chi Minh City will host an international film event of this magnitude, featuring over 200 international filmmakers and guests, along with a large number of Vietnamese filmmakers and artists. The event will take place over eight days, from April 6 to April 13, 2024.

The festival’s opening ceremony will be held at 6:00 PM on April 6, showcasing spectacular artistic performances and a premiere film screening. Leading figures of Vietnamese cinema such as People’s Artist (NSND) Trà Giang, NSND Kim Cương, NSND Đào Bá Sơn, NSND Trịnh Kim Chi, actress Hồng Ánh, actress Trương Ngọc Ánh, actor Quyền Linh, director Charlie Nguyễn, director Nguyễn Quang Dũng, and producer/director Lý Hải will attend the events. They will be joined by international cinema luminaries, including legendary Japanese director Kore-eda Hirokazu, Oscar-winning film editor Tom Cross (La La Land), former Artistic Director of the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes – Olivier Peré, leading South Korean director Kim Jee-woon, director Park Gyu Tae (of the hit film “6/45”), director Kim Ha Min (of the series “Noryang”), producer Jay Choi (“The Good, The Bad, The Weird”), French director Anne Fontaine, French actor Raphael Personnaz (Cannes 2023 Camera d’Or jury member), and American-Filipino actress Liza Soberano.

HIFF 2024 will feature three main competition categories: Southeast Asian Films, First Feature Films, and Short Films, with awards including the Golden Star for Best Southeast Asian Film, Best Emerging Director, Best Short Film, and the Ho Chi Minh City Film Award. Additionally, individual awards will be given for best director, actor, cinematographer, editor, visual effects, and more.

For its first edition, HIFF has received over 400 film submissions, 56 projects for the Project Market, and 87 scripts for the VietScript Lab.

The HIFF Project Market, inheriting the tradition of Autumn Meeting under the guidance of producer Trần Thị Bích Ngọc, has attracted numerous projects from around the world. Out of 56 projects (including 5 Art Films and 5 Entertainment Films), 10 will be selected for training and presentation to investors and studios. Notably, one of the submissions is from the director of the 2023 box-office hit “6/45” (South Korea). This year’s Project Market is supported by the French National Cinema Center (CNC).

The VietScript Lab, debuting at HIFF, is led by renowned filmmakers and has garnered enthusiastic participation from young screenwriters. With a philosophy focused on developing scriptwriting talent—a critical factor for the success of films and the industry—the VietScript Lab is exclusive to Vietnamese-language films produced in Vietnam. International filmmakers can participate if their films are produced in Vietnam. This strategy aims to develop international co-productions and position Ho Chi Minh City as a new destination for film production.

Directors Kore-eda and Kim Jee-woon will conduct film workshops for young filmmakers during the festival. These sessions will be more than just exchanges; they will be in-depth masterclasses on filmmaking.

In addition to the competition and professional activities for filmmakers, HIFF will feature a series of thematic seminars on developing Southeast Asian cinema, Ho Chi Minh City’s film development strategy, cultural diplomacy through cinema, and practical issues in film cooperation and production. These will involve leaders from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, central government agencies, Ho Chi Minh City authorities, the Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City Film Associations, honorary president Kim Dong Ho, NSND Đào Bá Sơn, the president of the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), the chairman of the Korean Film Review Board, and directors of the Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia film festivals.

On April 6, 2024, Nguyen Hue Walking Street will host an exhibition celebrating the glorious achievements of Vietnamese revolutionary cinema over 71 years, themed “Glory of Vietnamese Revolutionary Cinema.” This exhibition, running until the festival’s conclusion, will be a significant attraction for cinema lovers both domestically and internationally.

HIFF 2024 will also feature special sections showcasing diverse global cinema, including the Crossroads of Cinema, highlighting new French animation works, and the Vietnamese Cinema Panorama, presenting a vibrant picture of Vietnamese cinema with landmark films. The Ho Chi Minh City Films section will highlight works reflecting the city’s culture, lifestyle, and people, expected to attract both local and international audiences.

During the first eight days of April, Ho Chi Minh City will be immersed in the festive atmosphere of an international film festival, with international guests staying at major hotels in the city center. The opening and closing red carpet ceremonies will take place at the Municipal Theatre, which will also screen special films by prominent guest directors. The Directorial Symphony section will honor director Kore-eda, feature an audience interaction with director Kim Jee-woon, and host a Korean film gala with the Southeast Asian premiere of “It’s Okay,” the global premiere of “The Dearest” (Japan), and the global premiere of “Dead Boys Club” (Malaysia).

A unique new feature of HIFF 2024 is Cine Park, organized in collaboration with the Department of Culture and Sports, the Thu Duc City People’s Committee, and THACO Group. Opening on April 7, 2024, at the riverside park in Thu Duc City, Cine Park will offer diverse activities, including outdoor film screenings, artistic performances, and interactions with famous actors and filmmakers. Stars such as Trương Ngọc Ánh and Quyền Linh will participate, along with notable expatriate filmmakers who have contributed significantly to Ho Chi Minh City’s cinema, like Lưu Huỳnh and Võ Thanh Hoà. THACO is a strategic partner of HIFF, sponsoring major components of Cine Park and providing 80 cars for guest transportation.

Other entertainment activities within the festival will occur at Nguyen Hue Walking Street, including Cine Show – Film Music on April 9, directed by NS Lê Thanh Tâm, featuring artists Quách Mai Thy, Mai Trang, Ngọc Trân, Phương Mỹ Chi, Only C, Phạm Toàn Thắng, Hà Okio, Ái Phương, MTV, Vũ Thảo My, and Cece Trương. On April 12, there will be an interaction with the cast and crew of “Lật Mặt” directed by Lý Hải.

On April 13 and 14, HIFF will host Cine Show – Classic Disney Film Music “Beauty and the Beast” with the original soundtrack performed by the Saigon Philharmonic Orchestra at Hoa Binh Theatre. The international media has already taken notice of HIFF, with coverage by Screen Daily, Hollywood Reporter, and Deadline since its international debut at the Busan Film Festival in October 2023.


Mrs. Đỗ Hoa – Deputy Executive Director

Ho Chi Minh City International Film Festival

Phone: 097-956-1919

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