Vien Hong Quang, 27, a resident of Hanoi, has colorized hundreds of old visual documents about Vietnamese historical figures, including old videos about late Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh that received tens of millions of views on social media.
Thanks to the young man’s skillful restoration, the old historical records have been given a new life and have become bridges that connect today’s youth with Vietnam’s past.
Attracting millions of viewers
Quang started converting old historical photos and videos into color photos in March 2020. Given his efforts, the historical stories have been remade against the background of modern times.
One of his most impressive achievements is an excerpt from the documentary in which late President Ho Chi Minh gave an interview in French in 1996.
The video, archived by the Institut national de l’audiovisuel (INA) in France, impressed viewers after it was converted from a black-and-white video to a color one.
As Quang posted the video on his personal Facebook page, it was shared more than 30,000 times, with some pages republishing the video attracting 18 million views in total.
Many viewers cannot hide their emotions because it is the first time they can see President Ho Chi Minh in such a colorful video in a vivid and real way.
In addition to the color documentary videos of late President Ho Chi Minh, Quang also added colors to hundreds of photos and videos of historically important figures.
These include Prime Minister Pham Van Dong, General Vo Nguyen Giap, diplomat Nguyen Thi Binh, Prof. Dr. Ton That Tung, the first chairman of Vietnam’s capital Hanoi – Dr. Tran Duy Hung, and more.
Quang said that he did all these things because of his passion for history, which he has nurtured since childhood.
He has always wondered that although Vietnam has rich sources of historical records, the old documentation has been left for many years without anything being done to make it more interesting and appealing to young people like him.
This thought led him to embark on his self-chosen special project: adding colors to old photos and videos.
When talking about colorizing old images, Quang said the first obstacle is choosing colors that go well with historical events and eras.
To be able to add colors, it is needed to know the historical context of the event well enough to know what colors go well with the landscapes and the corresponding clothing.
“You also need to improve your colorization skills and equipment on a regular basis,” he said.
Quang believes that it is impossible to fully retouch the materials and colors of the items, as the modified products would carry the personal styles under any circumstances, that is, show the characteristics of the people who altered the items.
“Even though the colorful videos are not suitable for the creation of official archives, they can have a great impact on the efficiency of communication,” Quang said.
“Against the background of today’s popularity of social media, the retouched photos and videos with attractive and sharp images can play the role as a bridge connecting everyone to the country’s history in the most convenient way.”
Making history more accessible
According to Quang, he had the opportunity to meet many historical figures and their relatives while retouching old images.
When he was editing the video of an interview with Senior Lieutenant General Chu Van Tan, which was recorded more than 50 years ago, Quang noticed a woman who looked like director Xuan Phuong, who was Tan’s interpreter at the time.
Later, when he learned more about her, he could be sure that she was Xuan Phuong.
“I immediately contacted director Xuan Phuong and sent her the colorfully edited video for her review. After more than 50 years, when she saw her pictures in her 30s, which had been recorded and colored, she was very touched,” Quang recalled.
“She sent me a long message expressing her appreciation for my work in helping her see historical moments again, but in a different version of the documentary. I think it is like a karma that connects me with historical stories later.”
History expert Duong Trung Quoc praised Quang’s work in colorizing images. According to him, his colorization has met the demand of people who want a more interesting and friendly approach to historical stories.
“It’s really good for young people to re-make old picture documentaries in color. The color images are probably more attractive than the black-and-white ones,” Quoc said.
|Vien Hong Quang colorizes an old video in which President Ho Chi Minh gave an interview in French in 1966. The film has received millions of views after it was posted online. Photo: Nguyen Bao / Tuoi Tre|
Bringing historical film to students
On November 30, the Quang Tri Province Department of Information and Communications, in cooperation with the Vinh Linh District People’s Committee, screened the film “Le 17e parallèle: La guerre du peuple” (17th Parallel: People’s War) by renowned Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens.
The 1967 film was colorized by Quang. The historical film was screened at Vinh Linh High School in Ho Xa Town, Vinh Linh District, and most of the audience were students.
The screening of the film was attended by historical witnesses, including Nguyen Thi Xuan Phuong — the film crew’s interpreter — and Pham Cong Duc, who played the role of the ‘9-year-old boy who takes the rifle’ in the film.
Phuong watched the re-made film in the district that was once the site of the devastating battlefield where the Vinh Linh people fought bravely against U.S. forces.
She shared that it was a great challenge for the filmmakers to capture sharp and clear images in the underground tunnels of Vinh Linh.
“When I watched the color videos re-made by Quang, I was surprised and very touched by how clear and bright the faces and smiles were,” Phuong said.
“It is not easy for such a young person to volunteer to do a job that requires not only historical knowledge, technical skills and perseverance, but also financial resources.
|Vien Hong Quang, 27, lives in Hanoi. He studied information technology at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology.|
“However, Quang did not hesitate to do this, thanks to his passion for art and history with the aim of making the film sharper and more glittering.”
No one forced him to do this, he figured it out on his own.
“In my opinion, Quang is a true artist to whom many generations and I have to be grateful,” Phuong said.
She, who is now 94, is also the last member of the film crew still alive.
For the past year, Quang has devoted all his time and energy to colorizing the film “Le 17e parallèle: La guerre du peuple” with a length of 120 minutes and turn a black-and-white documentary into a color one.