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Good times roll for gifted cameraman
By Le Minh Phuong

Making a pass: A scene from Thung Lung Hoang Vang (Deserted Valley), which boosted Dung’s profile. — VNS File Photo
For Ly Thai Dung, celluloid really does flow in his blood. The 38-year-old son of Meritorious Artist and film director Ly Thai Bao is also blessed when it comes to what Viet Nam refers to as the seventh art.

His work has received a swag of accolades both here and overseas, perhaps peaking in 2000 when the short film he shot, Cuoc Xe Dem (Night Cyclo) won the third Cinefondation prize for short film at the Cannes Film Festival.

As a cameraman with the Viet Nam Film Corporation, he has filmed hundreds of TV series, feature films, documentaries and music videos.

Dung found his true direction in life when he attended the inaugural camera course at the Ha Noi Cinematography College, now known as the College of Stage Arts and Cinematography.

The young cinematographer began working for the Central Documentary and Scientific Film Studio while he was in his last year at the college.

In the two years he was there, Dung was lucky enough to collaborate with top names such as People’s Artist Dao Trong Khanh, director Tran Van Thuy and scriptwriter Lam Quang Ngoc.

Dung has also gained valuable experience from foreign film-makers when they have shot their films in Viet Nam, after working as a cinematographer with SecoFilm – a company specialising in services for overseas film studios.

He assisted the late French cinematographer Bernard Lutic on Dien Bien Phu, and New Zealand cinematographer Kevin Hayward on Traps.

In 1993, the Australian-produced feature Traps, set on a rubber plantation during the resistance war against French colonialism, received an Oscar nomination for best foreign film.

As well as foreign cinematographers, Dung has played assistant to the renowned cameraman Nguyen Huu Tuan on Thuong Nho Dong Que (Nostalgia for the Countryside) and Nga Ba Dong Loc (The Dong Loc Crossroads), which were warmly welcomed by cinema-goers and industry insiders alike.

Perhaps Dung’s biggest steps towards his dream of becoming a director like his father were taken in the making of Thung Lung Hoang Vang (Deserted Valley).

Director Pham Nhue Giang trusted in Dung enough to make him the director of photography on her masterpiece, for which he and other team members spent months roaming through the northern mountainous provinces to scout the best possible location.

Her faith and his determination have been well and truly rewarded; Thung Lung Hoang Vang won four prizes at the 13th Annual Film Festival.

Dung shared the festival’s Excellent Cinematographer prize for his work on the film with his fellow college class-mate Vu Duc Tung.

This prize now rests alongside his Silver Lotus for Giai Han (Misfortune’s End) from the 11th National Film Festival and the Golden Cu Neo prize (the Tuoi Tre Cuoi readers’ pick for best comedy) for Chuyen Nha Moc (The Story of Moc’s Family).

However, the trophy that takes pride of place on the film-maker’s cabinet is no doubt the Best Cinematography honour he picked up at the annual Viet Nam Cinema Association awards for his work on Tet Nay Ai Den Xong Nha (Who Will Arrive First this Tet?)

Dung is now working to ensure that another generation of talented film-makers will earn Vietnamese cinema its rightful place in the world’s theatres by imparting his knowledge to students at the College of Stage Arts and Cinematography.

Reprinted with permission from VietNam News Agency.


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