While the country was still divided, animation continued to develop, particularly in the North. In 1959, Le Minh Hien and Truong Qua, who studied at Soyuzmultfilm in Moscow, held training courses for young animators. Even before a State-sponsored studio opened in Hanoi in 1962, Le Minh Hien released What the Fox Deserves (1960). Filmed with makeshift equipment, it was an allegory for the necessity of working together to defeat the enemy. Animated puppets appeared in 1962 in a Vietnamese tale, The Hare Goes to School (1960), by the Czechoslovakian-trained Nguyen Tik.
Despite inexperience and a lack of means, work continued. In 1966, Ngo Manh Lan’s The Kitty was award the Silver Pelican at the Mamaia film festival. It was the country’s first international recognition for animation. The film tells the story of a kitten whose quiet life is interrupted by a huge rat and its rodent army. The kitten organizes a resistance and chases the invaders away. Here, as in other North Vietnamese films, the story’s propagandistic meaning is clear.
In fact, during the war against South Vietnam and the United States, approximately half the animated works coming out of North Vietnam were explicitly propagandistic. (The other half consisted of traditional tales and satires). For instance, in 1967 Ngo Manh Lan directed The Talking Blackbird (a.k.a The Talking Bird), with distinctly stylized drawings. It was about a South Vietnamese boy, accompanied by a talking blackbird, who defeats the Americans. In this way, Vietnamese animation is similar to the animation of other communist countries; a smooth blend of subjects and images rooted in national folklore, with particular attention to children’s audiences and political propaganda (intensified during the war).
Only in 1967, did the first color film appear – Carved in the Rock, by Truong Qua, made in collaboration with Nguyen Yen. The film is an epic poem about three generations of partisans in the jungle. Truong later directed The Legend of the Region (1970), considered the studio’s finest film. It intertwines a story of national heroism with scenes of idyllic country fairs.
After Vietnam’s unification in 1975, a State-sponsored studio opened in Ho Chi Minh city. Each year it produced a dozen movies filmed in North and about six made in the South.
(Animation: A World History – Volume II: The Birth of a Style – The Three Markets by Giannalberto Bendazzi )
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