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Vietnamese Filmmakers Stage Awards Ceremony


GARDEN GROVE — Nineteen years after war ended tributes to the Vietnamese motion picture industry, the Vietnam Movie and TV Productions Assn. was reborn Sunday night and hosted its own version of Hollywood's Academy Awards.

Amid high hopes and considerable pageantry, the organization held its first ceremony honoring the community's fledgling United States film industry, half a world away from the site of its last event.

That tribute took place 19 years ago in Saigon, just a few months before the city fell during the Vietnam War.

"This is to preserve our culture," said Catherine Ai, an actress who has starred in several Vietnamese-language movies and performed in some Hollywood roles. "This is the first time this has happened since the fall of Vietnam."

More than 500 guests from throughout Southern California attended Sunday's event in an Edwards movie theater on Westminster Boulevard. Many came in formal evening gowns or tuxedos, setting a tone for the event that organizers hoped would appear as a local version of Hollywood's Academy Awards.

More than two dozen awards were handed out during the ceremony, recognizing some of the directors, producers and actors who have worked in the Vietnamese film industry here, as well as some who have restarted film careers cut short by the war.

Ai said the new organization hopes to encourage filmmaking in the Vietnamese community as well as train local actors and find work for them.

"We want to organize like a Screen Actors Guild for Vietnamese actors," she said.

The movie industry in Vietnam was still in its early days when Saigon fell, said Sonduan Buy, a movie director and president of the new association. While movies were made in Vietnam as early as 1917, he said the craft did not develop into a commercial industry until 1965.

In 1969, the association was created in Saigon, sponsoring the First Vietnam Film Day to recognize outstanding achievements with a golden statuette similar to Hollywood's Oscar. The annual event lasted for six years, taking place each Sept. 22 until 1974.

Sunday's event was dubbed the Seventh Vietnam Film Day, as proclaimed in a banner hung over the entrance to the movie theater.

The Vietnamese movie industry in the United States is also in its early years. About 20 movies have been made, but because of small budgets, the pictures are produced on videotape rather than on film.

A 1990 movie called "Gaitro" (Roommate) was about the life of a girl who arrives in the United States and finds a difficult life. "It tells about how she has to change her lifestyle and she has to move a lot," said Ai, who starred in the picture.

The movies are distributed throughout Southern California and the nation via video rental stores.

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