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Iconic Hanoi Cinematheque Closes Doors to Make Way for Mall

The Hanoi Cinematheque, an independent movie house and cultural icon of the capital, closed its doors yesterday to make way for a shopping mall.

The non-profit indie cinema gained legendary status over its 14 years, screening everything from 1940s black-and-white classics to modern film festival darlings and Vietnamese documentaries, VietnamNet reports.

Located in a quiet Art-Deco courtyard deep down the alley of 22A Hai Ba Trung Street, a block from Hoan Kiem Lake, the cinematheque was run by Gerald Herman, an American film producer. The news source quotes a magazine interview in which Herman shared: "Cinema has always played an important role in Vietnamese society...I set up Hanoi Cinematheque with the thought of educating and inspiring a new generation of young Vietnamese filmmakers."

The one-room cinema featured plush seating, outstanding sound quality and a large projection screen. This will all go the way of the wrecking ball, however, as the entire alley is set to be demolished for a mall developed by Savina-Vingroup.

Herman shared with VietnamNet that he feels melancholy over the closure but is adamant that he will not open another theater. He will, however, continue to promote Vietnamese cinema to the world as well as international independent cinema in Vietnam.

Members of the Vietnamese film industry have weighed in with their feelings on the theater's demise as well. Film director Nguyen Vinh Son told the news source: "I know Hanoi Cinematheque was Gerald's greatest passion...for many years, he had lived far from home, going through many difficulties, dedicated to the effort of building Cinematheque."

Meanwhile Dang Nhat Minh, another director whose films were screened at the cinema, told VietnamNet: "I think the closure of the Hanoi Cinematheque means that Hanoi has lost a great source of pride, because it is a thousand times more difficult to build a cultural space than a trade center."

Martin Rama, a former lead economist for the World Bank in Vietnam, even wrote a letter to Chairman Nguyen Duc Chung of the Hanoi People's Committee asking for the cultural landmark to be saved, according to Vietnam News

In the appeal, Rama wrote that the Cinematheque was "the place where we could watch the best movies from all over the world". He continued: "Building and maintaining a cultural center is considerably more difficult than building and running a shopping mall. But the contribution to the vibrancy of the city is at least as important. A city that wants to attract talent from all over the world needs a place (many places!) like this...and the city could look provincial if it chose to demolish it."

[Photo via Tuoi Tre]

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