Vietnamese Films in Running for ASEAN International Film Festival

120 pairs of filmmakers will be gathering to take part in the prestigious biennial festival celebrating Southeast Asian films.


Vietnam is set to participate in the upcoming ASEAN International Film Festival and Awards (AIFFA) 2023 in Kuching, Malaysia from August 2 to August 4. The country will be showcasing two movies to compete for prestigious titles at the event.

Two films, Memento Mori: Land directed by Marcus Manh Cuong Vu and Dem toi ruc ro (The Brilliant Darkness) by Aaron Toronto, have been chosen to participate in a competition among 120 other films at the festival.

 A scene in Memento Mori: Land directed by Marcus Manh Cuong Vu. 

Memento Mori: Land had its premiere in Vietnam in October 2022. The film is inspired by the true story depicted in the book Destination of Life by Vietnamese author Dang Hoang Giang.

The movie follows the journey of Van, a brave and resilient young mother who comes to terms with the fact that her cancer has reached its advanced stage. Seamlessly navigating between reality, cherished memories, and evocative dreams, Van discovers a profound way to leave behind heartfelt messages for her two beloved daughters, Nguyet and Nga. Additionally, driven by an altruistic desire, she expresses her fervent wish to donate her organs for invaluable medical services and studies.

The Shining Darkness starts off with the somber occasion of a grandfather’s funeral, surrounded by his hopeful heirs who believe they are inheriting a substantial fortune. However, their joy quickly turns to despair as they uncover their father’s secret gambling addiction and the subsequent mounting debt owed to the intimidating mafia. With the looming threat of another funeral, time becomes of the essence as the siblings desperately scramble to settle the debt before dawn.

The film received multiple accolades, including the Best Feature Film at the esteemed 2021 Golden Kite Awards. Furthermore, it was honored with the Best Story and Best Performance (female) awards at the renowned 2022 Santa Fe Film Festival Award in February, held in New Mexico.

Director and actress Hong Anh (L) at ASEAN International Film Festival 2017. Photo courtesy of the artist

Vietnamese film director Hong Anh has been selected as one of the judges for AIFFA 2023. Her outstanding film Dao Cua Dan Ngu Cu (The Way Station) received three prestigious awards at the previous AIFFA edition, namely Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Photography.

Hong Anh was joined on the jury by U-Wei Bin Haji Saari, the Head of Jury from Malaysia, Ihsan Nurullah Kabil from Turkey, Viva Westi from Indonesia, and Effendee Mazlan from Malaysia.

Hong Anh expressed her gratitude and enthusiasm for being selected as a member of the AIFFA 2023 jury. She admitted to feeling both honored and a bit apprehensive, but also highly anticipating the experience.

“I consider this as a moment of ‘homecoming’ for me. Kuching Island holds immense intrigue as a destination. It is also the very place where my acclaimed production The Way Station garnered acclaim from the global film industry. Moreover, I am delighted to note that both Vietnamese films showcased at this grand affair are the works of esteemed filmmakers I highly admire,” she remarked.

 AIFFA announces list of five jury members.

The biennial AIFFA was established in 2013 to honor the achievements of Southeast Asian cinema. While the 2021 edition of the festival was reduced in size and moved online due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the upcoming 6th edition is anticipated to make a grand return, showcasing an impressive scale and high-quality content.

The upcoming AIFFA will introduce a noteworthy addition – a short film competition designed exclusively for university students, centering around the theme of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). In recognition of exceptional talent from Southeast Asian filmmakers, AIFFA 2023 aims to confer a total of 12 distinguished awards.