"The New Wave has been the template for so many emerging national cinemas. If you come from a country that has had, for instance, a fairly consistent film industry but of films that outside their own country nobody knows and nobody wants to see ... the moment that you then have a generation that has a chance to go to a film school in California or New York or somewhere else, when they go back they want to start a new wave. That's their model. There is no other model for saying, 'How can I go back to my own country and do something that is not the industry and is not television?' It has to be a new wave. ...It usually takes only one film to suddenly create a national cinema with a new wave effect."—Thomas Elsaesser.
Elsaesser's formula requires no further proof than the Vietnamese action film The Rebel (Dòng Máu Anh Hùng, 2007), which catapulted its director Charlie Nguyen and its two lead actors Johnny Tri Nguyen and Thanh Van "Veronica" Ngo into the international spotlight while kickstarting a new wave of Vietnamese filmmaking. Their follow-up effort Clash (Bay Rong, 2009) was an even-greater box-office success in Vietnam and arrived in the Bay Area as the centerpiece film for the 29th edition of the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), where I had the pleasure of sitting down with this charming and refreshingly down-to-earth couple to discuss their stardom and what it means for the future of Vietnam's film industry.
My thanks go out to Jon Jung ("Coffin Jon") who accepted this conversation for podcast at his site VCinema, which specializes in Asian film from cult to the classics. Be sure to check out Jon's archives at VCinema for past podcasts relating to films from environs East, and enjoy my conversation with Vietnam's most glamorous duo Johnny and Veronica.
Cross-published on Twitch.