Approved Phase II Proposal


by Dean Wilson

Supplemental Proposal for the Film Studies Program

Vietnam National University, Hanoi
University of Social Sciences and Humanities
Faculty of Literature

The Faculty of Literature at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH), Hanoi National University, requests a supplemental grant from the Vietnam office of the Ford Foundation in the amount of $819,500 USD to continue and extend the Film Studies Program (Ford Foundation Grant 1050-0781) for a term of three (3) years, starting June 2008 and ending May 2011.

We project spending our complete budget within the current cycle. Any unused funds will be applied to Phase II of the Film Studies Program, in accordance with the approval of Dr. Michael DiGregorio, Program Officer for Media, Arts and Culture in Hanoi.

The proposal is divided into eight sections: 1) description of the project goals and summary of progress, 2) objectives of the second stage and explanation of the proposed activities, 3) project management and academic coordination, 4) expected results and indicators of success, 5) profile of the literature faculty at Hanoi National University and the project consultancy, 6) overview of the proposed budget and payment schedule, 7) diversity information, 8) key contact information.

Section I. Description of the project goals and summary of progress

A) Background:

When the Ford Foundation office in Hanoi launched a film initiative in 2004 through its Media, Arts and Culture program, the intention was first to promote an independent production sector that would invigorate new forms of cultural expression and representation as Vietnam re-entered the world economy. The initiative was a timely response to domestic transformations that have accelerated in recent years, as an inundation of foreign media threatens to overwhelm domestic means. With the inauguration of the Film Studies Program in 2005, the initiative expanded, offering critical writing and screenwriting instruction in a ten-month, full-time, graduate-level certificate program at the Faculty of Literature of USSH. Among the four main branches of the Foundation’s film initiative in Vietnam, the Film Studies Program is unique in its scope and progression. It has enriched the other three branches with its graduates, teachers, network of contacts, resources, publications and methodologies; and it is the only alternative to the national film school for the study of motion picture media at a Vietnamese university.

B) Review of the Film Studies Program Goals:

  • The main goal of the program, highlighted in the original proposal for Ford Foundation Grant 1050-0781, was to graduate three consecutive classes of the 10-month certificate program in three writing specializations: journalistic writing, scholarly writing and screenwriting.
  • Secondly, the program sought to develop a framework for new degree programs offering film and media courses as major fields of study at Hanoi National University.

As explained in our annual reports, in the first three years, the first two writing specializations were consolidated into one. Journalistic and scholarly writing combined to become the critical writing specialization. Both goal categories hinged upon large-scale translation projects that formed the nucleus of the program’s curricula and publishing endeavors. The primary texts were David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s Film Art: An Introduction and Film History: An Introduction by the same authors.

C) Summary of progress

The Film Studies Program is more than halfway through the third cycle of Ford Foundation Grant 1050-0781, and the current group of students is the strongest to date. They will graduate in early November, indicating that the first phase of the program has made remarkable progress in each of the items above. For brevity, the proposal includes a survey of examples.

1) Student achievements: Over the past three years over 70 have students have graduated from the program and entered the new media economy as teachers, screenwriters, researchers, editors, producers and scholars. The program has published more than 60 printed issues of the student magazine, which has expanded to an online newsgroup with streaming video at Student thesis projects have included extensive translation and research on a variety of relevant topics, as well as more than 40 feature film screenplays with treatments and pitch statements. The program maintains an archive of student projects which supplements instructional resources.

Three of our members were selected for graduate film study scholarships in the United States through the Center for Educational Exchange with Vietnam (CEEVN). Two students received Institute of International Education (IIE) grants to study in Japan, and the program itself awarded two research scholarships for students to attend the Pusan International Film Festival and Asian Film Market in 2006. Six students obtained merit-based scholarships to work as teaching assistants and office assistants for the program, furthering our long-term goals.

Students in the program have translated Timothy Corrigan’s A Short Guide to Writing about Film, Warren Buckland’s Teach Yourself Film Studies, extended portions of David Howard’s Tools of Screenwriting, Paul Lucey’s Story Sense, Naomi Epel’s The Observation Deck: A Tool Kit for Writers, more than 20 classic screenplays, and various articles on the film history of Korea, Japan, France, Germany, China and Russia.

2) Publishing and foreign exchange: The Film Studies Program supervised three teams of translators for the two-volume Vietnamese language publication of the Bordwell/Thompson Film History: An Introduction. The complete seventh edition translation of Film Art: An Introduction is scheduled for publication in June 2008. The national film school and other academic institutions have already purchased the history editions.

In February 2008, the Executive Committee toured the USC School of Cinematic Arts for one week. In addition to observing classes in screenwriting and directing, the seven-member Vietnamese delegation observed the school’s Interactive Media and Animation programs, as well as critical studies classes on film and television history. The group also went to the University of California Santa Barbara for a roundtable discussion with the Dean, faculty and students of the Department of Film and Media, and a meeting with the Chancellor

Since 2005 the program has hosted five one-month seminars in Hanoi from outstanding scholars and filmmakers. Additional one-day seminars by foreign writers, producers, scholars, and festival directors have supplemented foreign exchange. Through the Film Studies Program, all of the students became members of the Hanoi Cinematheque and TPD/Cinema Space, two venues in Hanoi that host international seminars on a variety of film and media issues.

3) Film and media community: Graduates and faculty of the program are active in the local film community, freelancing, consulting and collaborating with a diversity of projects including those of the BBC, FPT Television, VTV3-6, VCTV, VTC, the Film Development Fund, TPD/Cinema Space, and others. The program has recently initiated internships at Star TV in Tapei, Galaxy Productions and Megastar Media in Hanoi, and Vinagame in Ho Chi Minh City.

Screenwriting instructor Phan Dang Di won the Outstanding Asian Project award at the Pusan International Film Festival last October for his recent feature film script, and was selected among only 15 international projects to attend the Cannes Festival Atelier in May 2008. Our World Cinema History Instructor won the Vietnam Cinema Association’s Golden Kite prize for the best television drama. Our Introduction to Film Style instructor, celebrated writer/director Dang Nhat Minh, is concluding principle photography for his new feature film on the recovery of Dr. Dang Thuy Tram’s war hospital diary, an international best-seller.

Our teaching staff and graduates have appeared frequently on television, and the program has welcomed many of the local film and media community’s most prominent voices for one-day seminars, including Nguyen Huy Thiep, Vuong Duc, Nguyen Thanh Van, Bui Thac Chuyen, Ngo Quang Hai, Doan Minh Phuong, Charlie Nguyen, Phuoc Sang, Ta Bich Loan, and Nguyen Hai Anh. Among the program’s outside thesis readers we have received the comments of prominent HCMC film and television people Vinh Son, Le Thanh Dieu, and Nguyen Ho, as well as the Hanoi producer Dang Tu Mai and writer Nguyen Qui Duc.

4) Capacity building and sustainability: A significant benchmark was attained in January 2008 when the university established a new subject heading to offer courses for credit in the Faculty of Literature. Under the management of the General Director of the Film Studies Program, Tran Hinh, who will teach courses in literary adaptation for the screen, Arts Studies will become a separate department of the university by 2010. The plan calls for the Film Studies Program infrastructure to migrate to the new department in order to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in film and media.

Section II. Objectives of the Phase II and Explanation of the Proposed Activities

The main objectives and activities of the program will remain unchanged, but the emphasis during the second stage will be on the longer-term sustainability of film and media study at USSH.

A) Short-term and Long-term Goals for Phase II of the Film Studies Program

  • In the short term, the second stage of the Film Studies Program will graduate three annual classes in two writing specializations: critical writing and screenwriting. The second stage will strengthen enrollment by augmenting the knowledge base and visibility of the program.
  • In the long term, the Film Studies Program will transform into MA and MFA degrees starting in 2010, which will lead to extended curricula and Bachelor’s degree programs in the new Faculty of Arts Studies supported by additional funding from Vietnam University and both the public and private sectors.

B) Phase II of the Film Studies Program encourages the following outcomes:

1) Providing detailed instruction in film theory, history, aesthetics, creative development, financial and distribution models, with daily screenings and up-to-date materials, including new translations of integral texts and online research in other languages.

2) Preparing young people for careers in the newly competitive environment of film and media through the sustained practice of critical and creative writing according to international standards.

3) Creating a stronger pool of applicants for existing scholarship funds for film and media study abroad.

4) Training instructors with resources, methodologies, and priorities that develop capacities for interdisciplinary film and media research.

5) Preparing degree programs for the interdisciplinary study of film and media within the University of Social Sciences and Humanities within three years.

C) Participants will be able to carry out the following activities according to international norms of the discipline:

1) Formulate relevant criticism of motion pictures and create a portfolio of reviews, screen reports or other publishable texts to apply for work in the fields of film and media journalism, marketing and research.

2) Develop extended, interdisciplinary research projects and written analysis for continued study abroad or to qualify for teaching film and media studies in Vietnam.

3) Identify and compare the important stages of Vietnamese and world cinema history using relevant vocabulary, concepts, and methods of attribution.

4) Work in teams to develop a contemporary critical sensibility, create screenplays and at least one short film as a group.

5) Create viable screenplays for film, television and other media according to international standards and Vietnamese market demands.

6) Develop a student journal and website, Tin Van Dien Anh, to cultivate original ideas and writing skills, and monitor changes in the industry.

7) Improve English language skills and establish correspondence with film studies centers abroad including familiarity with journals, magazines, and online resources

D) Explanation of the proposed activities

The University of Social Sciences and Humanities will issue a certificate containing the university seal to graduates of the Film Studies Program.

1) Course Duration and Schedule: The program will operate for ten months per year, with six months of full-time coursework, divided into two three-month semesters. The final period will comprise three months of thesis work under personal supervision and one month of external review and processing. Each annual cycle will begin in mid November, with a mid-term examination and break in February, during the Tet Lunar New Year holiday. The final examination and advancement to the thesis stage will begin in mid May.

2) Course Location and Facilities: The Film Studies Program office and classroom/laboratory will be housed in room 702 on the eight floor of Building E, at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities campus in Thanh Xuan district, Hanoi. The program office will contain a library, DVD collection, and computers. The classroom/laboratory will contain audio-visual equipment and wireless internet service.

3) Course Participants: In order to obtain a greater number of qualified applicants, the program will accept applications from any university graduate in the Hanoi vicinity. Graduates from other regions of Vietnam may also apply provided they supply a letter of intent with references to the program administration.

4) Course Contents and Structure: Incoming students will attend four required courses per week for the duration of the six-month segment. Two days per week they will separate into specialized writing workshops: critical writing and screenwriting. Required courses include Film History of the World, Film History of Vietnam, Introduction to Film Style (Aesthetics and Models of Production), and the Tin Van Research Laboratory (Methods of Research and magazine publication). All courses will be conducted in Vietnamese, except the Research Laboratory, which includes a variety of English and other foreign language materials with translation support.

5) Teaching Staff: Our instructors must be experienced filmmakers and writers. The current staff includes one academic, Professor Ngo Tu Lap (PhD). Instructors in the program need to be open to new materials and methods, such as “studio critique,” functional analysis, “writing to learn,” and comparative history. They must be willing to accept the special risks of providing alternative film and media instruction in Vietnam. The consultant will recruit, train and orient them in film and media pedagogy according to international norms. After a period of review, they will obtain a contractual appointment by the General Director. Instructors currently approved are as follows:

Dang Nhat Minh, Writer/Director – Introduction to Film Style
(textbook: Film Art: An Introduction, Bordwell/Thompson)

Phan Nhue Giang, Writer/Director – Film History of the World
(textbook: Film History: An Introduction, Bordwell/Thompson)

Phan Dang Di, Writer/Director – Screenwriting Workshop
(textbook: The Tools of Screenwriting, Howard)

Pham Xuan Thach (PhD), Professor/Writer  – Critical writing Workshop
(textbook: A Short Guide to Writing About Film, Corrigan)

Doan Minh Tuan, Writer – Film History of Vietnam
(textbook: Lich Su Dien Anh Viet Nam, ed. Ngat et al)

Dean Wilson (PhD) – Tin Van Research Laboratory
(Online resources, International Film Festival Circuit)

6) The Film Studies Program supports the longer term establishment of permanent degree programs in film and media in the Humanities. The sustainability of this broader potential will depend upon four main factors. First, it will be essential to maintain the consultancy in order to ensure the continuity and attainment of the project goals. The Film Studies Program needs to remain a coherent system and a reliable platform for education reform. Second, it will be important to build upon the foreign academic relations started in Phase I in order to enrich the competence of faculty and students for Phase II. Third, sustainability of film and media study in the Humanities will depend upon a new academic sector. Legitimizing the pedagogical value of the program by hiring certified graduates as teachers in Arts Studies at USSH will be an important stage in the progression outlined above. Finally, the university must update its profile for enrollment and financial support. Modifying procedures on the administrative level to facilitate hiring competent professionals in the film and media sector, and pursuing “satellite” partnerships with universities abroad will determine the long-term sustainability of Bachelor’s degree programs in Arts Studies. USSH must hire qualified professionals that practice methods new to Vietnam, with contemporary materials, in order to train MA and MFA graduates that will carry the endeavor into the future. Instructors with proven links to academic, publishing and production centers will surpass the current models of evaluation at USSH.  The expected outcomes of the Film Studies Program will enable the university to coordinate these transitions.

Section III. Project Management and Academic Coordination

The project will function as a certificate program and gradually transform into degree programs at USSH under the oversight of the Executive Committee and the Program Administration. Activities will be conducted by the General Director, the consultant, the consultant’s assistant, and an office manager. Together they will coordinate the commendations of three working groups as follows:

A) Project Management

1) Executive Committee: The Executive Committee is responsible for final official documentation and guidance within the university administration. It grants permission for the creation of subordinate committees, the use of university property and utilities, consults on new enrollment practices, and oversees the stages of formal accreditation for new degree programs. The Executive Committee ensures that the university seal appears on the Film Studies Program Certificates, and presides over our annual graduation ceremony. Vice Rector of Training and Management at USSH is the chair. Membership:

Phạm Gia Lâm (M) – Vice Rector of Academic Training

Ha Van Duc (M) – Dean of the Faculty of Literature

Tran Van Hinh (M) – General Director FSP, Dean of Arts Studies

Pham Xuan Thach (M) – Faculty of Literature, Deputy Director of Arts Studies

2) Program Administration: The Administration appoints the three working groups based on academic orientation and experience, and coordinates the long-term goals of the program based on their recommendations. The General Director oversees the program’s status within the university, administers the budget and official documentation, authorizes teaching contracts, and submits the program’s annual reports to the Foundation. He works with the consultant to plan and schedule the operations of the program and furnish the learning facility. The consultant is the primary liaison to the Foundation, recruits and trains the teaching and office staff, supervises the curricula and methodologies, oversees the film and text library, facilitates and coordinates foreign exchange and outreach, manages the budget and supervises scholarship proposals, in addition to teaching whenever necessary and administering the student website. The Assistant to the Consultant provides translation and networking support for the consultant in each of the capacities mentioned above. The office manager must have basic accounting, filing, and computer skills, keep the minutes of meetings, distribute them, and maintain the program archive and library. Membership:

Tran Van Hinh (M) – General Director, Dean of Arts Studies

Dean Wilson (M) – Consultant to the Program.

TBA – Assistant and Officer Manager

3) Academic Committee: The committee will validate instructional materials, qualifications of faculty, application and examination procedures in accordance with university policy. The Academic Committee will confirm the status of final student projects for completion of the program, and will include at least one Vietnamese film industry professional in its meetings. Its members and chair are appointed by the Executive Committee. The chair for the coming term will be Professor Ly Hoai Thu. She has been an examination and thesis reader for the past three years. Membership:

Ly Hoai Thu (F) – Professor, Faculty of Literature, Arts Studies management

Phạm Văn Quyết (F) – Academic Training Department

Lâm Bá Nam (M) – Vice Rector of Academic Research and Graduate Studies

Hoang Van Luan (M) – Chair of the Graduate School and Science Department

Dang Nhat Minh (M) – Writer/Director

Pham Nhue Giang (F) – Writer/Director

4) Resources Committee: The committee will be responsible for the program location, utilities and services, including accounting, within the university. The committee facilitates the acquisition of published materials and equipment, and makes recommendations on future resources to the Administration. Its members and chair are appointed by the Executive Committee. The current chair is Vũ Đức Nghiệu who is fluent in English.  Membership:

Vũ Đức Nghiệu (M) – Vice Rector Financial Affairs

Trần Văn Nhuệ (F) – Accounting Dept

Vũ Thanh Tùng (M) – Administrative Dept

Nguyễn Thiện Nam (M) – International Relations Dept

5) Ad Hoc Foreign Advisory Committee: Comprised of foreign professionals this working group reviews the consultant’s annual report and observes the progress of the Film Studies Program. It recommends visiting lecturers, learning materials and methods, and helps the program to integrate current international standards of scholarship and creative writing. The Foreign Advisory also facilitates study abroad and scholarship potentials among outstanding students. The committee is chaired by the consultant to the program, and its membership grows each year. Membership:

Dudley Andrew (M), Yale

Albert Berger (M), Producer

Chris Berry (M), Goldsmiths

David Bordwell (M), UW

Jerry Carlson (M), CUNY

Ed Guerrero (M), NYU

Ted Hope (M), Producer

Phoebe Huang (F), Writer/Producer

David James (M), USC

E. Anne Kaplan (F), SUNY

Park Kwangsu (M), UA Seoul

Stewart Liebman (M), CUNY

Robert Stam (M), NYU

Apichatpong Weerasekathul (M), Writer/Director

Virginia Wexman (F), UIC

Carol Wilder (F), New School

Paul Wolff (M), USC

Michael Uno (M), USC

B) Academic Coordination:

1) Enrollment will begin with a questionnaire, application form, and written entrance examination. These materials will be on the student website with descriptions of the program. The three major exams (entrance, mid-term, final) will be structured as writing exercises in the Vietnamese language that demonstrate originality and competence in ideation. Each exam will include a film screening, two general questions, a creative or critical challenge, and an English proficiency test.

Our teaching staff and two Faculty of Literature professors will evaluate exams using a numerical system from which a composite average score will be derived. Applicants with the highest average scores will be reduced to roughly 50 who will be selected for personal interviews with the project consultant. The consultant will recommend 30 applicants to the Executive Committee after reviewing the combined the results, whereupon 30 will be admitted for full-time study with five additional students accepted on a contingency basis. Students must be able to commit to the full-time schedule, demonstrate communication skills and willingness to work with others. At the start of each semester, the program will distribute curricula syllabi, texts, and schedules at an orientation meeting with question and answer session among faculty and administration. Attendance will be mandatory for the six-month study period.

2) The Film Studies Program Administration will award merit-based scholarships in four categories after reviewing student proposals submitted at the time of the final exam. Level One will be reserved for highly organized projects such as short film production, database and media development for the program, or professional internships abroad; Level Two will be reserved for Travel and Learning projects, teaching assistants, or advanced translation; Level Three will reserved for advanced research and creative writing; Level Four is a materiel and transportation stipend awarded to all students with satisfactory attendance and exam scores.

3) In addition to student financial aid the Film Studies Program will support travel and learning support for instructors, university administration, and foreign lecturers.

4) The Film Studies Program will convert existing syllabi to official formats and work with the university to establish criteria for hiring instructors of film and media study. USSH Rector, Nguyen Van Khanh, will support issuing MA and MFA degrees in writing for film and media and has initiated significant funding proposals with Vietnam National University for the construction of an on-campus media center which would combine the resources of Arts Studies and the Faculty of Journalism at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Section IV. Expected Results and Indicators of Success

In order to expand the accessible knowledge base and visibility of the program, the Film Studies Program projects the following outcomes for the Phase II grant period:

1) Sustaining the original goals of the program for three more years by increasing enrollment and achieving a higher degree participation and community involvement, including internships, co-publishing and co-production.

2) Extending the curriculum to include an annual Shooting Script workshop at the end of the six-month, full-time required courses. This workshop will result in at least one short film written, directed and produced by the group as a whole, integrating theory and practice.

3) Publishing two additional core curriculum Vietnamese translations:  a) The Film Studies Program Theory and Criticism Reader, an anthology supervised by the consultant and the critical writing workshop instructor, Professor Ngo Tu Lap; b) Teach Yourself Screenwriting by UK script doctor and educator Ray Frensham, a pragmatic synthesis of ideas with copious external references.

4) Converting the existing syllabi to standards approved by VNU, and modifying the hiring criteria to allow program graduates and current instructors to become employees of USSH, in support of MA, MFA and Arts Studies interdisciplinary undergraduate degrees.

5) Expanding the readership and participation rates of the student website and magazine.

6) Enhancing opportunities for study abroad by incorporating more English language materials and academic partnerships with foreign film and media programs.

7) Increasing foreign exchange for program personnel, students, and visiting lecturers.

Because the program is experimental and the only graduate-level course in film and media writing in Vietnam, continuity in the existing framework will be the most immediate indicator of success. It will confirm the viability of film and media degrees at USSH, particularly in terms of educational exchange and community involvement.

Section V. Profile of the Faculty of Literature and the Project Consultancy

The Faculty if Literature is one of the largest and oldest faculties at Hanoi National University housed at the campus of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities. It is also a center for literary, cultural and artistic research with an extensive collection of valuable textbooks and reference materials in the field of Vietnam Literature, Sino-Nom Language and Characters, literary theories and world literature. The Faculty has graduated a substantial number of the writers, educators, researchers, publishers and media personnel active throughout Vietnam, including members of the Vietnam Association of Writers, and national literary prize winners. In recent years, more than 1000 undergraduates and 100 graduate and doctoral candidates have led to increasing new enrollment.

For several years the Board of Leaders of the Faculty of Literature has intended to establish the academic study of motion pictures as an academic discipline coinciding with the study of literature. In keeping with the expansion of screen studies in the literature departments of most large universities abroad, and in response to requests from the student population, the hope was to prepare eligible candidates for careers in the areas of film journalism, screenwriting, and the cultural study of films.

With Ford Foundation Grant 1050-0781 the Faculty of Literature began hosting the Film Studies Program in the classrooms of its Hanoi campus, encouraging new research, creativity and detailed analysis in writing instruction for film and media. The Film Studies Program relies entirely on Foundation support.

The Sundial Forum for Contemporary Indigenous Art, Inc. is a tax-exempt educational organization incorporated in New York. It seeks to educate the general public on contemporary indigenous art, exploring questions of scale, materials and environment through publications and events. Sundial president Dean Wilson (PhD) designed the Film Studies Program on behalf of Sundial for the Faculty of Literature in 2005, and he has maintained the consultancy by fulfilling a variety of tasks, such as coordinating foreign exchange, supervising curricula and instructional methodology, as well as teaching periodically in all the courses offered.

Section VI. Overview of the Budget and Payment Schedule

The complete line-tem budget accompanies the proposal. We anticipate that much of the program infrastructure will become inoperable due to extensive use during the current grant cycle. Other items will be needed to accommodate our growing files, library and archive.

A) Budget Categories

1. Enrollment $21,750
2. Personnel $471,750
3. Infrastructure $58,000
4. Learning Materials $94,000
5. Academic Development $174,000
Total: $819,500

B) Estimated Annual Expenditures

1. Enrollment $7,250
2. Personnel $157,250
3. Infrastructure $19,333
4. Learning Materials $31,333
5. Academic Development $58,000
Annual Total: $273,167

C) Proposed Payment Schedule

The Faculty of Literature requests that payments be in made three annual disbursements to USSH with the following schedule:

First annual payment: 1 June 2008
Second annual payment: 1 June 2009
Third annual payment: 1 June 2010

Payments to Sundial, for the consultant’s fee, benefits and taxes should be made on a quarterly basis with the following schedule:

First quarterly payment: 1 July 2008
Second quarterly payment: 1 October 2008
Third quarterly payment: 1 January 2009
Fourth quarterly payment: 1 April 2009

The quarterly schedule should be repeated each year for the three-year term of the grant.

D) List of Potential Funders

During the proposed grant period (2008-2011), the program will seek additional funding from the Vietnamese government in support of degree programs, through Vietnam National University. Because we have worked closely on educational exchange with film communities of Japan and Korea in the past three years, we will most likely seek foundation support from these two countries. The program has initiated proposals for paid internships, in-kind contributions and scholarship funds from the business sector.

Section VII. Diversity Information

Two currents of thought are relevant to diversity issues in the study of motion pictures in Vietnam. One involves the cultural representation of Vietnam and its people in a global media marketplace and the minority status of Vietnam in this context should be indisputable. Vietnamese writers and filmmakers, like those of other emerging nations, must compete with foreign interests which far outweigh their capacities. The second involves the cultural representation of Vietnam on screens inside the country, most of which are controlled by the state. What appears on local screens, however, has been strongly influenced by outside forces in recent years; and domestic media are no longer isolated form the global marketplace.  Aggressive conglomerates are pushing for greater liberalization and issues of diversity have become casualties of both doctrinaire state narratives and sensational new forms of urban entertainment.

Impacting these two threads are the cultural productions of Vietnamese Diaspora communities in Asia, Europe and the United States which have recently obtained greater accessibility in both written and cinematic form. Overseas Vietnamese often have greater access to information and the means of production; and as a result, a tension exists between diverse, often conflicting, Vietnamese narratives. As contemporary life becomes further mediated through the prevalence of imagery, at home and abroad, Vietnam faces hard choices without an institutional framework that enables critical thought. These factors are products of history, and the Film Studies Program approaches issues of diversity through the historical components of education reform. Instruction in screenwriting and critical writing, for example, is a tool for organizing the ideas of young people who under normal circumstances would have no opportunity to engage the cinematic arts.

In practical terms this means that the program largely trains low-income young women with university degrees who have come to Hanoi from the provinces, or whose families have moved to Hanoi from various parts of Vietnam to seek education and a better standard of living. The nuances of difference in Vietnam, however, do not easily conform to the standard categories of gender, race, linguistics, and religion or refugee status. This may be true of most postcolonial states, but there are other concerns that apply to our larger project goals of bringing international standards of film study to Vietnam in the form of legitimate degree programs. Many of our students’ families are poor, but almost all of them come from academic paths dictated by their parents. Film study is an unconventional route that often contradicts the wishes of family hierarchies in a traditionalist society that emphasizes harmony, especially for young women. Under these circumstances, the program realized after our first year that expanding the pool of applicants would bring greater diversity; and we accepted applications from graduates of any university in the Hanoi vicinity, rather than limiting enrollment to our home campus. This change has resulted in pedagogical challenges due to the experimental nature of the project.

Academic disciplines are highly differentiated in Vietnam, often along gender lines, and none of the humanities or social science colleges teaches film history or aesthetics. From the beginning of the revolutionary period up until the period of national renovation, in the late 1980s, film and (later) television were parts of a monumental resistance to the bourgeois tendencies of escapism and individual expression. Professional skills and orientation were subservient to ideology, and a limited number of specialists enacted the government media program. This tendency was evident in film and media education and remains a vestige of government authority in the midst of tumultuous economic change. By expanding our enrollment we brought a paradigm shift to Vietnam at a crucial time, and we feel this is a significant educational reform. It addresses both of the threads mentioned above by diversifying academic options, while at the same time incorporating Diaspora narratives into a coherent historical pattern.

The Film Studies Program, therefore, strives to bring media literacy to people who would normally have little or no opportunity to think critically or enter the public discourse. The governance of the Film Studies Program reflects this understanding of diversity as a component of educational reform. Our instructors, for example, are not traditional academics, nor are they members of the college faculty. Pham Nhue Giang, for example, is an important woman film director who had no teaching experience before we hired her. She devoted herself to learning the vast material contained in the Bordwell/Thompson textbook with limited English skills, before it was translated, and adopted our comparative method of instruction with determined effort. Through extensive screenings she brings her rich cultural background and experience to the classroom for eight hours per week of comparative film history, interacting with students and instilling originality and organized self-expression for a full six months. This has never been done before in Vietnam. Her impressive motivation and concern has made her the most respected teacher on our staff.

Because the Film Studies Program is experimental, our committee members should be considered part of the minority that had no voice in the film culture before the program began. Our General Director, Tran Van Hinh, for example, comes from a small fishing village in the central region. He has emerged in the past three years as a commentator on the screen adaptation of literary works, expanding his early research on Margueritte Duras and Albert Camus. In his literature courses he now teaches the films of Alan Renais and Akira Kurazawa, and the university has formally named him the Dean of the new Art Studies department that will inherit the Film Studies Program in the next three years. We feel these are important steps toward legitimizing the study of cinema as an academic discipline in the Humanities.

Another way of considering under-represented groups in Vietnam can be derived from the ratio of qualified film and media professionals relative to the majority of academics on the USSH management board of the Film Studies Program as follows:

Under-represented(Vietnamese Film and Media Professionals) Total
Female Male Female Male
USSH Board of Rectors 0 0 0 4
FSP Instructors 1 5 1 5
Support Staff 2 0 2

In the past three years the program has certified roughly 67 young women and five young men whose undergraduate field of study would have otherwise excluded them from careers in film and media.

Section VIII. Contact Points

Tran Van Hinh – General Director; Dean, Arts Studies (M, VN)

Dean Wilson – Program Administration; Consultant (M, USA)

~ by maximumeskimo on May 31, 2008.

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