Director and People Artist Le Thi, the general director of the film, granted an interview with Nhan Dan (People) Newspaper reporter on the special features and the process of making this massive TV documentary.
A massive and special work
Q: As a director for many documentary films on history and revolution, how did you feel when you decided to take on the role of the general director for this massive TV documentary?
A: I made many films on wars, but I only dare to cliam to be a successor of People’s Artist Tran Dien, who made the 90-minute celluloid film titled “Cuoc dung dau lich su” (The historical confrontation). It summarised the arduous but heroic resistance wars against French colonialism and US imperialism. However, it took a long time to complete the film; meanwhile I spent shorter time to make my film.
I felt a bit worried when I decided to take on the role of director for the film. But at that time, the difficulty was the serious lack of documents from foreign sides. However, there are now too many documents from them, meanwhile our materials are few and the quality of many images are not good due to limited preservation, storage and declaration. On the other hand, many images have already been used many times. Therefore, if film makers were not qualified and alert to control the huge amount of collected data, the documentary’s contents could fall into imbalance.
Secondly, I have made many films on this topic, so I could make the film with old fashioned ways of thinking if I was not careful.
In addition, the enthusiasm and demands of the audiences today are very different. Young people do not want to hear one-sided ideas on historical issues. Meanwhile, the older generations get used to the old style of making documentary films, so it is very difficult for them to accept different perspectives.
Q: The film’s length is the biggest pressure on the participants of the project, isn’t it?
A: With 90 episodes (each lasts 30 minutes), the film was really a pressure on us. When I accepted the role of general director, I thought that the first issue was the outline of the script. After discussions, we decided to make the film following the events. Each episode will recall the events in a year. This approach will make the it different from the previous documentaries on the same topic, and it facilitated the implementation. However, we also adjusted flexibly. For example, the first part, titled “Aspiration for independence – freedom”, consists of five episodes. This is a big content, reflecting the process of national construction and protection of our nation before the Party was formed. However, for the following parts, each episode will be associated with a single year from 1945 onwards. I do not dare affirm that this method will help the film successful, but at least, it will make it different.
Director, People’s Artist Le Thi
Q: Did the division of episodes according to the history’s years affect the development of the film’s script because many historical events are inherently related to a longer time axis?
A: With the milestones consisting of important events, such as the August Revolution 1945, the General Offensive and Uprising in spring of 1968 or the Great Victory in the Spring of 1975, we put them into two episodes to convey them more deeply. The insights into these important historical events were reflected on the perspective of today. With the events that had a long-lasting impact on the country’s development, the film makers had to consider and select carefully to compress information and determine the right focus to convey them into the script.
Q: The steering committee for the project said that the film uses a huge amount of materials that were collected both at home and abroad, while the time for making the film was not much. The problem forced the producers to reuse many documents from their colleagues, while it was not easy to find new ones. Does this affect the film’s attraction compared to the previous works on the same topic?
A: When I made the film “Mua xuan toan thang” (Spring of Overall Victory), the documents that we collected in the country over many years were encapsulated in some contents. However, as I said above, the documents from foreign sides are huge; therefore, if I am not alert in arranging them, I will get lost because their quality is good. Meanwhile, domestic images are not as nice. Thus, we had to select and calculate carefully.
However, I have directly participated in making many films on this topic, so I have had experience in select documents to avoid the duplication of materials and images. In addition, we had tried to check them thoroughly to ensure their accuracy. This is a great effort and pride of the film makers.
The accuracy of the documents used in the documentary has great significance, because they can make a chain of mistakes as younger generations reusing the films of their predecessors. Now, we can be proud to control this issue very well.
A special opportunity
Q: The participation of up to ten crews in making the documentary series was a great challenge for the consistency in the way of content delivery. How do you ensure consistency in the expression while not limiting the creativity of the film makers of the different crews?
A: As general director, I delegated responsibilities to the crews and appointed their leaders. I worked directly with them to adjust the contents of the episodes. Therefore, I could unify the delivery method of the film, but the creativity in each episode has not been affected. The definition of the method of making the film according to the timelines has also contributed to its overall look.
Q: Could you tell us about the special feature of the film that you expect to convey to the public?
A: The special feature that we focus on is the political character. We closely followed the resolutions of the Party in managing and leading the country over the past 90 years. The events were reflected in terms of both achievements and limitations, and even mistakes.
Q: How does the film have significance in your professional life?
A: As I said, this is not a strategic topic, but it offered a special opportunity for me. Through the film, I could review a very special period of the country’s history with a new perspective. I also had the opportunity to work with the leaders as well as the experienced and enthusiastic film crews.
I expended all the knowledge and experience that I collected over several decades to make the documentary series, with the desire to make a contribution to the younger generations.
Thank you very much!
* The documentary series, titled “Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh Era – Television Annals”, was developed and implemented by Nhan Dan (People) Newspaper under the direction of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for Communication and Education. The film fully and systematically reflected the development of Vietnam under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, giving the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and opening the Ho Chi Minh Era.
* Its episode was officially aired on Nhan Dan Television at 7:30pm and on VTV1 channel at 8pm on February 4. The major central channels began to broadcast the film on February 6; meanwhile it has been introduced to the public through the local televisions since February 7. The series will be broadcast until the end of March 2021.