Portraits of Vietnamese in 21C 

YxineFF Kick Off event in Hà Nội, April 2013 – Photo from YxineFF.com.

—– Đọc bài tiếng Việt —– 

With purely a strong passion for cinema, Marcus Mạnh Cường Vũ and a group of ten other friends created Yxine.com in 2003. It was a destination forum for cinema lovers all over the world. In 2010, wishing to elevate their game to a new level, they established Yxine Film Fest, or in brief YxineFF. As a simple explanation, it is an online film festival where the call for submission, the film submission, the selection, the screening, the viewing, the voting are all done virtually.

Only after three years of operation, YxineFF has gained incredible reputation among film lovers and filmmakers all over Việt Nam, Europe, and America. At the third YxineFF in 2012, of 150 films submitted, 66 were selected to screen, and YxineFF.com attracted about a million views for the whole festival season. The fourth YxineFF this year just started with Kick Off events on April 10 in Đà Nẵng, Sài Gòn and Hà Nội, followed by a screening on May 14 at L’Auditorium in Paris. Submissions will be accepted until July 10 of 2013. The Opening is on September 9, and Closing December 2013.

As an online film festival, YxineFF is definitely a new and attractive playing ground for young people, and one definitely being supported and gaining popularity quickly over time. YxineFF Director, Marcus Mạnh Cường Vũ, is one man behind the screen. He took some time to share the YxineFF story as follows.

How did YxineFF come into existence?

Marcus: Personally, 2010 is a crucial year for me. I turned 30 and decided it was time to choose a path in life. I had been working earlier – doing business, teaching in a college, but it was time to live my dream. That was the message for myself but also one shared by many of my friends who established YxineFF the moment I put forward a proposal and they picked it up. We later had great support from people in the film industry who helped with the film selection and fundraising. Honestly, we started YxineFF not knowing for sure what would happen. We simply followed our hearts.

How was the film selection done in the first place? 

Marcus: At first, we selected films on a first come first serve basis, meaning we screened right away whatever good films we got. Then we selected more as they came and screened more.

So the first year was very much experimental as we could not be sure whether we received enough film submissions, or even enough good films to screen. Therefore, during this first year, we especially spent a lot of effort on publicity with me going to Việt Nam talking to the filmmakers and presenting them the idea of an online film festival. It was all fruitful effort because from the second year on, the selection followed the standard process of a film festival. We call for film submissions, select them, and then screen them. Everybody works via emails and only meets at the closing night.

marcus mạnh cường vũ
YxineFF Director Marcus Mạnh Cường Vũ – Photo courtesy of Marcus.

Why an online film festival?

Marcus: One, we want to reach a wider group of audience, so that anyone who has a cell phone connected to the internet can watch the movies online anytime, anywhere. Imagine a theater that is mobile that can be anywhere in the world but that comes from one source: YxineFF.com.

Second, online means free of charge. We don’t have to rent space for events and screening.

Three, technology is up to the point where people can enjoy the short films online and still embrace the artistic aspects of them.

Besides the online screenings, YxineFF does hold events in place as well?

Marcus: That is right. It is because YxineFF’s goal is not only to screen films online for everyone to enjoy but also to create a network of filmmakers all over the world. For this particular reason, YxineFF holds Kick Off events, some meetings and screenings in several big cities like Hà Nội, Đà Nẵng, Sài Gòn in Việt Nam, Irvine (California, USA), Paris (France), Phnom Penh, Vancouver (Canada), Berlin (Germany). At these gatherings, audience who come to watch the films are both regular theater goers and young filmmakers. The latter come to realize they can actually have a chance to introduce their films to others through our venue. This inspires them and encourages them to keep going on the road they have chosen.

What has been the best source of sponsorship for YxineFF so far?

Marcus: For the first year, I had to spend my own money on some expenses. On the second year, I spent much less. And from the third year on, sponsorship money is enough to pay for all the necessary expenses while we organizers still volunteer and have other volunteers help do the rest. I can say the best source of sponsorship so far has been from organizations in Việt Nam. Our headquarters are there and we hold important events such as Opening Night and Award Ceremony over there. We still consider YxineFF’s priority to be targeting Vietnamese speaking communities and diasporic ones. Our website used to have only Vietnamese the first year. Then we add English the second year on. We are extending our fund raising sources these days.

How do you conduct meetings? 

Marcus: We communicate through emails mainly and use Skype for essential meetings.

YxineFF 2013 Poster – Photo from YxineFF.com.

Some YxineFF screenings are sponsored in place. What do these theaters get from this?

Marcus: They get media attention, because every time we have a festival we carry out professional media releases. The theaters will benefit from these exchanges. At the same time, they realize that if they want people to come to the theater, there must be good filmmakers. If you want to have good filmmakers, there should be places like YxineFF as a training ground for the young ones and to support them in their artistic pathway. The theater owners also realize that by doing so, they are helping to support the Vietnamese film industry.

What is the future of YxineFF like?

Marcus: We have to believe in what you we are doing to be successful. Simultaneously, we have to find our own outlets for the films. YxineFF has been able to distribute some films to the television programs in Việt Nam. So I can say besides the film festivals, YxineFF is a representative for those filmmakers who entrust in us the right to distribute their films. YxineFF has signed a few contracts to do this with several TV programs in Việt Nam, and we are trying to reach the international market. At the moment, we are looking at entertainment programs on board the airplanes.

After all, we have to believe in what we are doing. That is why the theme of the second YxineFF was “Belief” and this yeas, the 4th YxineFF, it is “Choice” – the implication is that once we chose our path we have to pursue it.

What do you think YxineFF needs for its continued growth and development?

Marcus: The most important thing for us is that with each year passing by we do a better job. In the long run, this depends on finances. At some point, we need some full-time employees for YxineFF because volunteers cannot take care of everything all the time. This, however, is still only one part of the equation. The other part is that we must be able to convince the film industry as well as the audience that the future of cinema is in the hands of those filmmakers currently participating in YxineFF, that we will continue to produce better films, and focus on quality and content – to be honest, without quality and content, publicity can only go so far.

* For more details about YxineFF, go to: www.YxineFF.com.

The Vietnamese version of this article has been published by the Vien Dong Daily News. Read the online Vietnamese version here.

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