In the first decade of the twentieth century, the French established the first screening rooms. Their commitment was concentrated above all in the field of exercise, while the production activity was reduced to current affairs films and geographical documentaries. In the 1920s the first feature films with a subject came: Kim Van Kieu (1923) shot by Frenchman EA Famechon with Vietnamese technicians and actors, Tu-Phu di hoi vo (“A bride for Tu-Phu”, 1925), Giai thoai Ba De (“The beautiful story of Signora De”, 1929), made by French based on stories drawn from local tradition and literature.
Alongside some failed experiences of collaboration between Chinese and Vietnamese (in particular the film Canh dong ma, “The flower of the cemetery”, released in 1938), the first attempts to create an entirely Vietnamese cinema, through the foundation of local film companies, were located at the end of the Thirties, which however failed to equip themselves with structures and infrastructures adequate. The Japanese invasion of 1940 stopped all turmoil and only from 1946 the Viet-Minh became promoters of a national cinema, directly linked to the war of liberation against France. Numerous projection units circulating around the country were set up, but production was reduced to propaganda documentaries. In 1953, the National Society of Cinema and Photography of Vietnam was founded by the government of Ho Chi Minh, with the task of supporting and promoting revolutionary culture. Chung mot dong song (“We live on the banks of the same river”), a love story between two young people who live on opposite sides of the river that divides the country in two.
While in Southern Vietnam the local anti-Communist production was open to the influences of American cinema and neighboring South-East Asia, Vietnam of the North increased the national film culture by creating studios, schools and associations, and increasing the number of the films produced. In the sixties and seventies the works dedicated to the re-enactment of the resistance predominate (Chim van khuyen, “The Golden Oriole “, 1962, by Nguyên Van Thong and Tran Vu; Chi tu Hau, “The fourth Miss Hau”, 1963, by Pham Ky Nam ; Vi Tuyen 17 ngay va dem, “17th parallel, day and night”, 1972, and Em be Hanoi, “The girl from Hanoi”, 1974, by Hai Ninh), to the reconstruction of the country and to the, “With the Lucs”, 1970, by Tran Vu). With the reunification of the Vietnam in 1975, the production of the South also conformed to the line of political commitment. The films of Hong Sen, one of the greatest personalities of contemporary Vietnamese cinema, author, among other things, of Canh dong hoang (“Terra devastata”, 1979), a short story of war, and of Vung gio xoay (“The region of cyclones”, 1980) on the problems of collectivization.
Other directors working in the 1980s include Phu My Ngiem, Dang What Minh, author of Bao gio cho toi (“October does not want to return”, 1987), and Ho Quong Minh, a Vietnamese with Swiss citizenship who in 1986 was returned home to shoot Karma, based on the novel by a local writer, Nguy Ngu. Of Dang What Minh we also mention Tro ve (“The Return”, 1994), in which the tragic split of the country is reflected behind a love triangle. French-trained, the Vietnamese Tran Anh Hung, in Hivo since 1988, won the Caméra d’or award in 1993 at Cannes with his debut feature film Mui du du xanh (“The scent of green papaya”). and in 1995, in Venice, the Lion of(“Cycle”).