A Vietnamese film, Gai Nhay (Bar Girls)
For the first time a Vietnamese film, Gai Nhay (Bar Girls) by Le
Hoang, has walked over Hollywood blockbusters to rank top of the box
office in Ho Chi Minh City after just one week of screening. It also
marks the first time "hot scenes" have made it past censors in the
The film has been a phenomenon in local cinema network, which has long
been dominated by foreign-made films. Bar Girls raked in VND1.5
billion ($ 98,039) in its first ten days of screening, the highest
figure ever in Vietnam over the last ten years and a dream for any
local film producer.
The story revolves around the life of two young girls working in bars
and discotheques with the danger of HIV/AIDS always lurking in the
background. Hanh, played by Minh Thu, grows up on the streets as her
mother left her to marry a man in Cambodia and find a better life. In
contrast Hoa (My Duyen), still a juvenile, comes from a well-off
family, indulging herself with careless abandon.
The film exposes the dark corners of a job scorned by Vietnamese
society. Behind colored lights and expensive perfume and outfits are
girls vomiting in toilets after drinking alcohol or taking drugs, and
being scolded or even beaten for not going with clients. The film
takes viewers deeply into the reality of life as a bar girl minus the
cosmetics and sexy outfits.
"I'm 23. I don't want to die," cries Hanh, during her battle with
AIDS. Hoa's fate is equally unpleasant. The film is a wake-up call
about the degradation of some youth and the subsequent responsibility
of each person, family and society.
"No one can quite believe that the "House Full" sign is going up in
many cinemas," commented the Dai Doan Ket (Great Unity) newspaper.
In Thang Long cinema, 4,600 tickets for the film were sold out in the
first days of screening.
"The film has attracted audiences of 1,000 each day, a record that
even the Hollywood blockbuster The Mummy Returns can't match," said
the director of the Toan Thang cinema.
The film has attracted viewers more than the seductive Jennifer Lopez
can Maid in Manhattan, which is also drawing in a large number of
cinemagoers, remarked the Van Hoa (Culture) newspaper.
Except for average sound quality and a number of unresolved climaxes,
the film is meticulously made with unusual shooting techniques.
Perhaps this explains for the large audiences, of whom bar girls
account for a significant number.
This is also the first time the film producer, Giai Phong (Liberation)
Films, has dished out a large sum for advertising a film, around VND60
million ($ 3,898).
Observers say Bar Girls is a "breakthrough" for the country's flagging
movie industry, escaping from the prolonged "silent attitude" of
audiences to locally-made films, as no other film has attracted such a
flood of viewers, thought critics claim Luoi Troi (Heaven's Net), the
first anti-corruption motion picture made in Vietnam, may prompt
Material from Saigon Giai Phong - February 19, 2003.