The fourth Vietnamese International Film Festival gets under way Thursday with a movie about a war-torn family that finds redemption through rugby.
“Footy Legends,” a Vietnamese Australian movie directed by Khoa Do and starring Anh Do, will screen at Edwards University 6 in Irvine and kick off the biennial film festival, which runs April 2-5 and 9-12 in Irvine and Los Angeles.
More than 60 films are scheduled for the growing fest, called “ViFF” by organizers and participants. This year’s theme is “Into View,” and the emerging and established filmmakers in the program hail from seven different countries.
“It’s a very broad theme, actually,” said Ysa Le, co-director of the film fest, which started in October 2003. “We were hoping we’d get films to engage the audience. Indeed, the films will bring out a lot of issues. A lot of the films are documentaries this year.”
After opening night, most screenings will take place at UC Irvine and UCLA. For the first time, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana will serve as a ViFF venue, hosting a free high school day on April 3 and a free senior citizens day on April 10.
Other highlights include: the world premiere April 3 of “Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam” at the Bowers, with some adoptees present; the world premiere April 4 of “Sad Fish,” directed by Le-Van Kiet (“Dust of Life”) and starring Orange County resident Kieu Chinh (“The Joy Luck Club,” “Journey From the Fall”) and Long Nguyen (also from “Journey From the Fall”).
On April 11, ViFF will present a Spotlight Award to actor and former Orange County resident Dustin Nguyen, best known for playing Officer Harry Ioki in the TV series “21 Jump Street.” Recently, Nguyen played a villain in “The Rebel,” the opening film of the 2007 Vietnamese International Film Festival. Following the award ceremony, ViFF will screen 2005’s “Little Fish,” starring Nguyen, Cate Blanchett, Sam Neil and Hugo Weaving.
“All About Dad,” written and directed by Mark Tran, will close the festival on April 12.
This year, there will be four free panel discussions: “Crossing Boundaries: Female Filmmakers and Questions of Genre and Gender” on April 5; “Combating Human Trafficking: How Can You Help?” on April 5; “Rebuilding the Community Post-Katrina” on April 11; and “Reel to Real: International Networks” on April 12.
ViFF is presented by two nonprofit organizations – the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association and UCLA’s Vietnamese Language and Culture. The festival has become one of the nation’s largest gatherings for Vietnamese cinema, a launching pad for aspiring filmmakers, as well as a popular social event for local Vietnamese Americans.
Film is “a way to share the stories with a lot of people,” Le said. “Nowadays, technology is very effective. One of the best ways to tell our story is through this art.”
About 4,000 people attended the festival in 2007, and organizers are hoping to match or exceed that number this year. Tickets are $8 general, $6 for seniors and students. Special events cost more.