The 5-day long Vietnam International Film Festival (VNIFF), announced in Pusan on October 12, finally wrapped up last night at the National Convention Center in southern Hanoi.

The festival featured a competition section for Asian directors with a focus on South-East Asia, and competitions for shorts and documentaries. An international jury selected the best feature, short and documentary, while  audiences chose their favourite actor or actress.

The fest also had a Vietnam Cinema Today section – with recent features from Vietnamese directors, highlighting the country’s production trends; and a World Cinema Today section with an aim of keeping local audiences in tune to world cinema trends and encouraging cinephilia.

Nhat Kim Anh receives the Best Actress Prize.

The two awards for Vietnam include Best documentary and short film for Always Beside You and Best Actress for Nhat Kim Anh, who plays Cam in The Fate of a Songstress in Thang Long. Director and jury president Phillip Noyce (Salt) specifically cited the movie as “extremely beautiful, [it] revealed parts of Vietnamese history that we as outsiders were not aware.”

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“To play my role in The Fate of a Songstress in Thang Long, I had to learn a lot,” Nhat Kim Anh says, “such as playing a 16-chord zither, singing ceremonial songs and expressing the character’s inner feeling through crying with only one eye. I felt I grew up in this film and I’m proud of the role,” she says.

The other major award won was for Best Documentary, with director Nguyen Thi Kim Hai’s Always Beside You, which follows a Vietnamese mother as she cares for her three-year-old son who is afflicted with leukemia.

However, the biggest winner of the night was actually first-time Singaporean director Boo Junfeng’s Sandcastle taking three prizes, including Best Feature Film and Best Director.

The Documentary and Short Film Jury included Matthieu Poirot-Delpech from France, Juhani Alanen from Finland, and Vietnamese director Bui Dinh Hac.

The festival focused on East Asian and Southeast Asian films and attracted filmmakers, producers and businessmen from 30 countries and territories.

List of awards

Best feature film: Sand Castle – Singapore

Best documentary and short film: Always Beside You – Viet Nam

Best Actor: Ah Niu, Ice Kacang and Puppy Love – Malaysia

Best Actress (went to 2 contenders for their excellence): Nhat Kim Anh in The Fate of a Songstress in Thang Long – Viet Nam, and Fiona Sit, Breakup Club – Hongkong

Best Director: Boo Junfeng, Sand Castle – Singapore.

Stars at the closing ceremony:

Best Director Award winner: Boo Junfeng from Singapore

Vietnamese actress Tang Thanh Ha and Hong Kong Star Daniel Wu.

Vietnamese director Nguyen Thi Minh Hai receives the Best Documentary Film Prize for “Always Beside You”.

Director Dang Nhat Minh and French cameraman Francois Cantonné present the Best Actor and Actress Awards.

Malaysian actor Ah Niu couldn’t go to Vietnam to take the Best Actor Award so the prize was presented to his representative.

Nhat Kim Anh and the representative of Hong Kong actress Fiona Sit receive the Best Actress Awards.

Actress Do Hai Yen and Marco Mueller, Director of the Venice International Film Festival present the Best Director Award to Singaporean director Boo Junfeng (left).

Australian director Phillip Noyce and South Korean actress Kang Su Yoen announced the best feature film of the first Vietnam International Film Festival.

While organizers left the door open for an annual event, they indicated that the plan is for the next Vietnam festival to take place in 2012 in Ho Chi Minh City.

From: VietNamNet, ScreenDaily, The Hollywood Reporter