Emeritus Artist Hong Ngat

Whether as a poet, screenwriter or cinematographer, Emeritus Artist Hong Ngat has wholeheartedly devoted her life to the arts and has carved out a distinguished career. 

Emeritus Artist Hong Ngat started as a stage actress in the Vietnam Cheo Theatre. During her15 years at the theatre, the roles in Cheo nourished her soul and gave her special feelings which were important in her later work as a scriptwriter.

Recalling that period, she acknowledged: “Folk sayings, proverbs and poems of simple and significantly meaningful wordsused on the Cheo stage is the folklore in this genre that soaks in my soul”.

In 1980, she was sent to the former Soviet Union to study screenplay writing and when she returned to Vietnam she worked for the Vietnam Feature Film Studio.

She wrote her first screenplay for the film “Mot thoi da song” (One-time Living), directed by Xuan Son, as her debut into the Vietnamese cinema world. It was also the script she used for her graduation from the Moscow Cinematography School which asked the Vietnam Feature Film Studio to make it into a film. She is one of few screenwriters who made a film one year after graduation.

During the time working in the Vietnam Feature Film Studio, apart from her own screenplays, she successfully transformed short stories by famous writers into film scripts and one of them which created an echo in her career is “Memory of Dien Bien”.

Emeritus Artist and screenwriter Nguyen Thi Hong Ngat (2015).

In 2012, she was awarded the State Prize by the State President for her screenplays,
namely Canh bac” (Gamble), “Trang tren at khach” (Moon in Strange Land) and
“Cha toi va hai nguoi dan ba” (My Dad and Two Women). Photo: File

Hong Ngat with foreign directors. Photo: File

Hong Ngat at the film studio when shooting the film, “Memory of Dien Bien”. Photo: File

Hong Ngat reads a screenplay before shooting. Photo: Trinh Van Bo

Hong Ngat and her colleagues at the Vietnam Feature Film Studio. Photo: Trinh Van Bo

Hong Ngat works as a member of the Vietnam’s Film Council at the Vietnam Feature Film Studio. Photo: Trinh Van Bo

Hong Ngat with her Russian teacher at the Moscow Cinematography School. Photo: File

Hong Ngat with her classmates at the Moscow Cinematography School. Photo: File

Sharing her memories with us about when she started writing the scripts for this film, Hong Ngat said, “The idea for the screenplay originated from a short story entitled “Bec-na” by Major General and writer Chu Phac. The story is about the memories of a French soldier who surrendered to the Viet Minh army in Dien Bien Phu. The story has a simple style and conveys true and moving emotions and humanity that triggered me to write the screenplay. Initially, it was called “The Surrendered Soldier” and then changed to “Memory of Dien Bien”.

Writing scripts about the war in Dien Bien Phu is a rather thorny issue for screen writers as it mentions great parts of history and the national glorious resistance war so it requires the script writer to find new ideas and expressions, different from those of previous script writers. Hong Ngat opted for a different approach – the value and sentiments of humanity, and of soldiers in the two fighting lines.

After completion, the “Memory of Dien Bien” film was screened several times on important occasions of celebrating the Dien Bien Phu Victory. When General Vo Nguyen Giap passed away, the film was screened again. The viewers witnessed heroic scarifies of Vietnamese soldiers, the power of national solidarity and more importantly the tolerance and humanity of Vietnamese people which were clearly showed through the dramatic shift of the feelings, emotions and perceptions of the surrendered soldiers, from fear to admiration and then love.

With her great contributions to Vietnamese cinema, in 2012 Emeritus Artist Nguyen Thi Hong Ngat was awarded the State Prize by the State President for her screenplays, namely “Canh bac” (Gamble), “Trang tren at khach” (Moon in a Strange Land), “Cha toi va hai nguoi dan ba” (My Dad and Two Women).

Although she has been retired for ten years, the artist has continually devoted her efforts to Vietnamese cinema. She now works as Standing Deputy Chairwoman of the Vietnam Cinema Association and member of the National Film Council. She is also busy managing her own “Hong Ngat Film” studio.

At the age of 65, she started work as a director with the film “Guong troi” (Heaven Mirror) , an interesting film screened on channel VTV3.

Story: Thao Vy
Photos: Trinh Van Bo &Files