Vietnam bars ‘too sexy’ film from screening at Venice

September 3rd, 2008 - 10:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Hanoi, Sep 3 (DPA) A Vietnamese short film scheduled to screen at the Venice Film Festival was barred by Vietnamese censors for being “a little bit too sexy”, a Vietnamese film official said Wednesday.The film, “When I Am 20″, by director Pham Dang Di, was accepted by the biennial Venice Film Festival, a rare occasion at a major international festival for Vietnamese film.

But Vietnamese authorities in August blocked the director from exporting the 35-mm print of his film, saying censors had refused to grant it a licence for public showing.

“Earlier, the department watched the film to see if it could be shown publicly, perhaps after cutting some sensitive scenes,” said Nguyen Thi Hong Thai, deputy head of the Vietnam Cinematography Department.

“But after watching it, we thought it was hard to just cut a few scenes. In general, the film is a little bit too sexy.”

The Venice Film Festival issued a press release Monday saying it planned to screen the movie Wednesday as scheduled, using a lower-quality DVD version.

“The 65th Venice Film Festival has decided not to exclude the film from the competition, believing that every form of freedom of expression has to be guaranteed and defended,” the press release said.

The film contains sex scenes explicit enough to earn an X rating in the US, and Vietnamese officials worried it would present a negative image of the country abroad.

Film official Le Ngoc Minh stated in August that the actions of the film’s heroine, a part-time prostitute, “run counter to Vietnamese customs, traditions and way of life”.

Di made the film in 2005 as part of a class with French-Vietnamese filmmaker Tran Anh Hung, who directed award-winning films like “The Scent of Green Papaya” and “Cyclo”. The class was financed by foreign donors.

Prostitution is something of an obsession among young Vietnamese filmmakers, who make films about it to test the bounds of official tolerance and to garner publicity.

The subject appears explicitly in films such as “White Storks” and “The Rebel”, and implicitly in hit comedies like “Bar Girls”.

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