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Varan Vietnam adventure

Founded by Jean Rouch in 1978, Ateliers Varan is a programme dedicated to Direct Cinema and to training filmmakers across the world. In 2004, a team of instructors led by André Van In organized the first Varan workshop in Hanoi. Since then, nine workshops have been held in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City. In 2012, a handful of participants created their own production company, soon followed by their own training programme, Varan Vietnam, in 2016. Several films were born out of this experience and enjoyed screenings in numerous festivals, including Ha Le Diem’s Children of the Mist, which took home the Clarens Prize for Humanist Documentary Filmmaking during the 2022 edition of Cinéma du Réel. Thanks to Ateliers Varan, film students and filmmakers – some of whom were working and continue to work for public television – were introduced to Direct Cinema and synchronous sound. Using digital cameras, they have documented the swift changes undergone by Vietnamese society as it embraces capitalism, giving voice to marginalized individuals, populations and ethnic groups. The emergence of Direct Cinema, Nagra recorders and 16mm cameras can be credited for the films of Pierre Perrault and Gilles Brault in Québec, of the Maysles brothers in the U.S., and of Jean Rouch in France. In a similar way, a new path has opened up for Vietnamese cinema, separate from the productions of the official film industry, bringing us new stories from a fast-changing country.

This journey will be told through a selection of ten films, ranging from the first student films to the latest productions from Varan Vietnam. These films speak to a discovery, to a revelation and to a changing relationship to the world, as well as to the urgent need to bear witness to it. Direct Cinema holds a mirror up to the past twenty years of the country’s history.

Featuring contributions from Varan Vietnam filmmakers (including Nguyen Thi Tham, Doan Hong Le, Pham Thi Hao, Tran Phuong Thao, Ha Le Diem and Swann Dubus), two round-table discussions dedicated to film production and distribution in Vietnam will be held at the Centre Pompidou and the Musée Guimet. Another discussion, held as part of our annual event at the BULAC library, will explore the ways in which documentary films reflect the radical evolutions affecting the country.

This programme will be screened at the Centre Pompidou and the Musée Guimet in partnership with Ateliers Varan. It is designed as a tribute to our friend André Van In, whose generosity is only matched by his belief in the power of cinema, and whose active involvement with each and every one will forever be missed.

Following a first visit to Vietnam in 1969 (People’s War), Robert Kramer returned to Hanoi in 1992 to supervise a filmmaking programme. The resulting film, Starting Place, will be shown as an opening film ahead of the programme.