in Film & TV

'Madame Pirate,' Film Project Based on Asia's Greatest Female Pirate, Sets Sail Again

Zheng Yi Zao “started as a prostitute, resisted the authority of the Qing emperor, kicked everyone’s bottom, and then got away with it... also she has been ignored by history,” explains Vietnam-based filmmaker and photographer Morgan Ommer for why Taiwan was interested in funding a two-part film that tells the story of the leader of the world's largest pirate fleet. 

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Hanoi Director's Debut 'Cu Li Never Cries' Wins Best 1st Feature at Berlin Film Festival

After Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell won the Camera D’or award at Cannes last year, this year, another independent film fro...

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From Tò He to Tamagotchi: Local Designer Brings Our Childhood Toys to Stamps

For Vietnamese kids today, when it comes to games, there’s a possibility that their childhood is entirely confined to the digital world. From phone applications like Temple Run and Pokemon GO to blockbuster releases on the Nintendo Switch, making your own entertainment is much less of a concern for modern children.

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Meet 90-Year-Old Huỳnh Văn Ba, the Father of Hội An's Foldable Lanterns

In his 90s, Huỳnh Văn Ba’s hair has turned completely silver, but when he was telling me stories about lanterns, his voice and eyes sparkled with a particularly lively hope. Thanks to Ba’s invention — collapsible lanterns — Hội An’s distinctive souvenir can easily follow the footsteps of international tourists to all corners of the globe.

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In Hà Nội, a Martial Arts Master Preserves the Century-Old Tradition of Dragon Dancing

In Vietnam, during festive occasions such as Tết Nguyên Đán (Lunar New Year), mesmerizing dragon dance performances serve to eloquently spell the people's aspiration for fortune, abundance, and propitiousness. A glimpse into the art of dragon dancing The dragon has been a symbol of great cultural and spiritual significance in Vietnam since ancient times. Standing at the forefront of the Four Divine Creatures (Dragon, Unicorn, Tortoise, Phoenix), the dragon embodies strength, authority, opulence, and good fortune. Consequently, there is a prevailing belief among elders that the Year of the Dragon, denoted as "Năm Thìn," will usher in a period of substantial prosperity. The dragon also represents ancestral roots due to the folklore of Kinh Vietnamese being descendants of a dragon king and a fairy princess. The dragon, synonymous with strength and prosperity, has been a defining symbol in Vietnamese culture throughout history. Given its sacred status, dragon imageries have appeared across different art forms, from architecture, painting, and sculpture to folk theatrics like dragon dances. These vibrant performances take place during festive occasions such as the Lunar New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival, and other celebrations, symbolizing the collective desire for prosperity. Tracing its roots back to China, dragon dancing has since sprawled across much of Asia. Ancient Hà Nội, known as Thăng Long, is considered the first place in Vietnam where the art took off. Research suggests that dragon dancing in Thăng Long dates back to the 10th century during the Lý Dynasty. Over time, it fused with traditional martial arts and folk dances to become a unique form of art embedded in Vietnamese culture. With its enduring legacy, dragon dance continues to be a popular activity in community events from northern to southern Vietnam. Dragon dance continues to be a popular activity in community events from northern to southern Vietnam. Among various forms, fabric dragon dancing prevails. In the South, this variation is believed to have first emerged within the Chinese community around 1944-1945, when Hokkien businessman Trần Bội, owner of Trung Nam soap company, started a troupe comprising his factory workers in Sa Đéc. Another source, however, suggests that the first fabric dragon troupe appeared a few years earlier at Ông Temple in Phan Thiết, where remnants of a revered dragon head remain. After the war, the practice suffered a subdued period until 1987, when the former Hokkien troupe regrouped, establishing its base at Ông Bổn Temple in District 5. Since then, dragon dancing performances have continued to embellish local celebrations. Preserving Thăng Long's Dragon Dance Tradition In Hà Nội, particularly in localities such as Chương Mỹ, Thanh Trì, or Sơn Tây, the age-old practice is still cherished by locals. The resounding drums and graceful dragon movements remain a staple during Tết festivities. In its modern iteration, Hà Nội's dragon dancing stays true to its traditional roots while adapting to evolving contemporary tastes, with more than 30 styles developed. Master Bùi Viết Tưởng Crafting His Troupe's Costume. In Chương Mỹ, Hà Nội, a young martial arts master dedicates his career to championing the tradition of lion and dragon dancing. As the year of the dragon approaches, amidst busy preparations, Bùi Viết Tưởng and his apprentices find themselves working overtime to meet the surging demand for dragon displays in Hà Nội and neighboring regions. In the biting cold of January, Tưởng's workshop hums with activity, its presence a rare bastion for lion and dragon heads crafting in the capital. Having started his martial arts training at a young age, Master Bui Viet Tuong later focused on studying the intricate art of lion and dragon dancing. He returned to his hometown to establish a martial arts school and form the Tưởng Nghĩa Đường troupe, hoping to pass on this tradition to future generations of his community. The making of a dragon costume. At the workshop, the master and his apprentices diligently cut, sew, and adorn their creations with intense focus. "The dragon-making process involves multiple stages, demanding artisans to be truly patient, meticulous, and appreciative of traditional beauty to spend hours each day decorating every detail, adjusting each part until the dragon takes shape," Tưởng candidly says. Dragon costumes vary in size and color based on the routine, thus allowing for appropriate creativity and variations as needed. Each fabric dragon costume consists of three parts: head, body, and tail, all attached to bamboo legs. Dragons often sport vibrant colors like red - symbolizing luck, and gold, which represents prosperity. Each dragon head requires 5 to 6 days to complete, while the body and other parts take up to 10 days. The dragon head is a combination of bamboo, straw, fabric, and decal paper. After being mounted, the dragon head is intricately decorated. Tưởng notes that the material used for the dragon head must be able to withstand all the weather changes through the seasons of the North. Each paint stroke is emphasized to evoke the majestic spirit of this revered creature. The dragon body is crafted from fabric, with scales printed thermally or raised with decal paper. The number of scales can reach thousands, creating a sparkly effect. In addition to crafting dragons, rigorous training sessions at the club are held well before the Giáp Thìn Lunar New Year. As Tết looms near, the training at the club becomes increasingly rigorous. Artists performing dragon dance should be experienced in martial arts. "Dragon dance is a highly artistic form of performance art. It requires artists to skillfully create movements that accurately depict the majestic and powerful aura of the dragon. Therefore, a seamless blend of fluidity and decisiveness is essential for a dragon dancer. In addition to performance skills, a background in martial arts is crucial," shares Tưởng who draws from his 15 years of experience in both martial arts training and dragon dance. "Anyone looking to engage in dragon dance must undergo a tedious process. Good physical health is a prerequisite to meet the demands of constantly changing movements. Flexible reflexes and resilience are equally important qualities. Hence, those with a martial arts background, adept in various stances and techniques, will quickly adapt to this art form," he explains. Good coordination determines the success of a dragon dance performance. The ability to coordinate within the team also determines the success of a dragon dance performance. "How well the team harmonizes to create continuous transformations, maintaining a tight connection among members, is something I always emphasize to my students." The number of members in a dance troupe varies depending on the size of the dragon. For Tưởng Nghĩa Đường, a typical performance involves 9 members. Each member plays a crucial role, although the positions at the head, number 5, and tail are the most physically demanding. As the one controlling the dragon's head, Đỗ Văn Tới explains, "To make the dragon move gracefully and execute visually appealing movements, the leader must practice sharpness and agility. Precise movements enable other members to follow suit. Additionally, this position is pivotal in handling any unexpected situations during the performance." Đỗ Văn Tới, the dragon head bearer. With each Tet celebration and the arrival of spring, rhythmic drumbeats echo through community gatherings. Against the backdrop of village courtyards, majestic dragons coil and sway, a testament to the enduring power of this traditional art form. Dragon dance performances evoke not just fond childhood memories but also the people's aspirations for luck, success, and the ambition to rise resiliently. As long as the younger generations embrace this cultural legacy, its enduring charm remains steadfast.

Khôi Phạm

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On Delving Into Vietnam's Eras of Tết Firecrackers via My Family History

Is it a valid reverie or just mere misguided nostalgia to feel a sense of yearning for lives you’ve never lived?

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Xông Đất and the Art of Not Letting Randos Into Your Home on Mùng Một

Tết permeates all areas of life this time of the year, from TV programs to online memes and highly detailed charts, tables, and infographics that guide people to participate in a popular new year activity called xông đất.

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in Music & Arts

The Observatory: Bringing Fresh Art and Music to Saigon's Masses

If you are thinking “another bar in town,” think again. Last month, The Observatory officially celebrated its opening, with the photographic exhibition of Mai Huyen Chi and an incredible lin...

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Video: Now This How to Count in Vietnamese

A bit rusty when it comes to Vietnamese numbers? No worries, this guy will show you how it's done.

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Sunday Garage Sale @ Saigon Outcast

From the organizer: Remember the jumble sale and garage sale that Saigon outcast did last year? Where they collected a lot of toothbrushes and some other necessities for the orphanage in bien hoa?&nb...

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Deaths and Abuse Reported at HCMC Daycare Centers

In a week hit by scandal of 2 nursery ‘baby-sitters’ abusing the children in their care, more light is being shed on illegally operating businesses that are left to care for the city’s children. And i...

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How a Viral Video is Challenging Vietnam’s Traditional Gender Roles

It’s an age-old story – a couple breaks up and someone asks to be repaid for various expenditures made during the relationship. This scene was captured in 2 recent YouTube videos which quickly went vi...

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A Closer Look at the Images on Vietnamese Banknotes

Vietnamese banknotes are characterized by beautiful colors and illustrations that capture some of Vietnam’s most famous locations (and Ho Chi Minh, of course). We've previously written about their his...

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Canvas & Wine: Monet and The Impressionists

From the organizers: The Impressionist movement changed forever the concept of painting. The effect of light and color and the use of clear brush strokes played a main role in the paintings. With the...

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Slideshow: Spectacular Color Photos of 1914 Hanoi

Over the next 2 weeks, Hanoi-based French Culture Centre (L’Espace), will be holding a “Hanoi Colour” exhibition, featuring 60 color images taken by French photographer, Leon Busy, between 1914 and 19...

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Castaway (Lost Island) New Years Party Presented by Mc Sorley's, DeciBel Lounge and Saigon Outcast

From the organizers: Dear Saigon, It’s been an amazing year, and the only way to end it is with an even more amazing party. This year forget lines, forget dress codes. Forget everything you think you...

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Christmas Eve Potluck Dinner + Secret Santa @ Saigon Outcast

From the organizer: Everyone is welcome to Christmas potluck dinner and secrete Santa at Saigon Outcast on Tuesday, December 24, 2013, for our special edition of eating-too-much and enjoying a a Xmas...

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Video: Just Some Guys Doing the 'Chicken Dance' on a District 1 Rooftop

As you may be aware, the Vietnamese 'Chicken Dance' craze has been sweeping through the country over the past month. The dance which tells you to "Lên nóc nhà" (go to the top), instructions that were ...

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Tastes Like Chicken Brings the Funk to Cargo

From the organizer: Tastes Like Chicken are the funkiest band in Saigon. This 8 piece line up of bad ass funksters will definitely get you dancing. Their Chicken stinks of funk and is served with l...

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Fashion Meets Communication Event @ Plan B

From the organizer: This time, we are going to bring a fresh air to our regular event with a Fashion Show. This is to support young and talented fashion designers - a brand new inspiration for Commun...

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Video: Motorbike Meditation? Vietnam Man Shows off his Impressively Dangerous Skill

We're kind of in awe by this video which shows a Da Nang man speeding down the highway while standing on his motorbike. This is not an endorsement to try it yourself (this position likely takes years ...

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UK Man Releases Album in Vietnamese

For us many of us non-native Vietnamese speakers, learning the local, tonal language is a tall order. But while most of us are satisfied learning ‘get by’ vocabulary, there are those who take their st...

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Exhibition Opening: Laurent Judge & Ayano Otani

From the organizer: Laurent Judge, a French artist painter and graffiti artist, has re-formatted his original paintings, and printed them on wood. Laurent will be pleased to present a limited series...

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Traffic Time Lapse from Kumho Asiana Plaza

It might not have the high production value of previous time lapse videos we've posted but this video, captured from the top of Kumho Asiana Plaza, still provides a nifty view of one of the city's bus...

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Preview: Future Shorts Vietnam Returns

What are the connections that we consciously and unconsciously create among each other? How do the things we leave behind come back, without us knowing it, in our world? These are just few of the them...

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Priceless Vietnamese Parody of 'Fox Say' ('Bài Ca Phở')

Hit track, 'The Fox' from Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis has become a viral sensation the world over. As the ripples of its influence ping off different cultural walls, we end up with hilarious parodies l...

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Video: Lightsaber Duel Brings Advanced Technology to Saigon's Streets

This classic video from a few years back gloriously reappeared in our lives this past weekend. With only 3,000 views, we thought it was being under-watched so here it is for those who haven't seen it ...