‘The Gospel Of The Beast’ wins top award at first Ho Chi Minh City film festival, as several titles pulled from lineup

admin 2024/04/15 10:16


Ho Chi Minh Gospel of the Beast



Filipino director Sheron Dayoc’s The Gospel Of The Beast won the top Golden Star Award for best Southeast Asian film at the first Ho Chi Minh City International Film Festival (HIFF) in Vietnam, which also saw several titles dropped from the final programme due to censorship by local authorities.

The Gospel Of The Beast marks the first feature in seven years from Dayoc and tells the story of a teenage boy who accidentally kills his classmate and runs away with an older man he barely knows, forming a unique father-son relationship. It premiered at Tokyo in October.

Scroll down for full winners list

Also in the Southeast Asian film competition, Nicole Midori Woodford’s Last Shadow At First Light received the jury prize as well as a further three awards, while Chai Chee Sum’s Oasis Of Now took best director and best actress for Ta Thi Diu. Chai Yee Wei’s Wonderland earned two acting prizes – best actor for Mark Lee and best supporting actor for Peter Yu.

Mongolia’s Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir and Saudi Arabia’s Ali Kalthami were named emerging filmmakers for their respective film City Of Wind and Night Courier from the first or second film competition, dedicated to rising talent outside Southeast Asia.

Both competition sections were to have 12 entries each, but Vietnamese director Le Binh Giang’s Rock-A-Bye Baby from the Southeast Asia competition and UK director Molly Manning Walker’s How To Have Sex from the first or second film competition did not receive approval from local censors.

Further Vietnamese films that disappeared from the schedule included short Saigon Kiss; Tony Bui’s 1999 Ho Chi Minh City-set drama Three Seasons, which was recently presented in 4K at Sundance; and B4S: Before Sex by three rising Vietnamese directors Tung Leo, Michael Thai and Huynh Anh Duy.

B4S: Before Sex was originally scheduled to world premiere at HIFF, ahead of its local theatrical release on April 12. It was finally approved after making edits and will receive its premiere today (April 15).

A few titles such as 100 Yards by Xu Haofeng and Xu Junfeng did not end up in the programme because censors could not keep up with the deluge of festival films that needed approval.

Censorship has long proved a sticking point in Vietnam, for both local and international titles. After consulting the public and Motion Picture Association, Vietnam, the country has moved away from an approach of pure censorship and adopted a rating system with clearer references last year but authorities still have the power to censor features.

First edition

During its eight-day run, the festival showcased close to 100 films in 13 cinemas and two outdoor venues. The nearly 200 screenings, including 14 that were held outdoors, attracted more than 20,000 people, according to the data provided by HIFF. It organised 73 events, 14 seminars and 10 special classes, with nearly 200 international guests in attendance.

A major highlight was the attendance of Cannes Palme d’Or winning Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda who was honoured with a tribute through the Directorial Symphony section. He conducted a three-hour long workshop for more than 300 attendees as well as participated in a lengthy conversation with the audiences after a screening of Broker at the city’s iconic Opera House.

Vietnamese audiences were keen to meet international directors. Both Korean directors Kim Jee-woon and Kim Ha-min held long post-screening Q&As that lasted more than an hour for 2003’s A Tale Of Two Sisters and 2023’s Noryang: Deadly Sea respectively.

The first edition of HIFF closed on April 13 with the awards ceremony and a screening of Wim Wenders’ Oscar-nominated film Perfect Days, which was attended by Japanese producers Takuma Takasaki and Koji Yanai.

HIFF has been launched following a revision of the country’s long overdue cinema law, which now permits local city governments to host international film festivals. On the industry front, the festival hosted existing filmmaking workshop Autumn Meeting, which usually takes place in November, and a new script lab headed by filmmakers Charles Nguyen and Phan Gia Nhat Linh.

HIFF 2024 winners

Southeast Asian film competition

Golden Star Award for best Southeast Asian film
The Gospel Of The Beast
Dir. Sheron Dayoc 

Jury prize
Last Shadow At First Light
Dir. Nicole Midori Woodford 

Best director: Chia Chee Sum, Oasis Of Now

Best actor: Mark Lee, Wonderland

Best actress: Ta Thi Diu, Oasis Of Now

Best cinematography: Hideho Urata, Last Shadow At First Light

Best editing: Hendra Adhi Susanto, 13 Bombs

Best screenplay: Nicole Midori Woodford, Last Shadow At First Light

Best visual effects: Laokoon VFX, Last Shadow At First Light

Best original score: Yuji Watanabe, Blue Imagine

Best supporting actor: Peter Yu, Wonderland

Best supporting actress: Rawipa Srisanguan, Solids By The Seashore

Best sound design: Wahyu Tri Purnomo, 13 Bombs

Best production design: Jean-Sien Kin, Tenement

First or second film competition

Emerging filmmaker awards

Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir, City Of Wind

Ali Kalthami, Night Courier

Additional awards

Best short film: Leila, dir. Fariba Haidari

Best short film – jury prize: Alien 0089, dir. Valeria Hofmann

Best Ho Chi Minh City film: Song Lang, dir. Leon Le