Đời SốngVietnam

State-funded film set during Indochina war attracts surprising interest

A state-funded film about a 1947 battle between French troops and Vietnamese resistance forces has attracted a surprising level of interest from theatergoers who have lined up to watch the movie and requested a wider distribution.

“Dao, Pho va Piano” – or “Peach, Pho and Piano” in English (with pho referring to the famous Vietnamese noodles) – was released on Feb. 10, the first day of Tet, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year holiday.

Vietnam’s government often uses the state budget to fund films about historical topics for propaganda purposes. But those movies often fail to attract viewers and are usually pulled from theaters after a short run. They sometimes later air on state television.


Despite little advertising, word got out on social media that the film was worth watching. Last week, ticket requests crashed the website of Hanoi’s National Cinema Center and long lines were seen outside a Ho Chi Minh City theater.

Battle of Hanoi

The movie is set during the final days of the Battle of Hanoi, the first battle of the First Indochina War fought between the French and the Viet Minh, an independence-seeking coalition led by Vietnamese Communists.

A key scene in the movie shows a barricade in Hanoi’s ancient quarter where Vietnamese militiamen use lunge mines – a type of suicide bomb used against tanks – to resist an attack by French forces. 

The self-sacrifice allowed Viet Minh units to withdraw from the city to a region north of Hanoi, where they regrouped and later defeated the French.

A scene in the film “Dao, Pho and Piano.” (Thanhuytphcm)

The film’s director, Phi Tien Son, noted that Vietnam has produced a dearth of good historical films over the years.

“The country’s cinema industry still owes the audience a lot regarding films about historical topics,” he told Vietnam Television. “I hope my colleagues will gradually pay that debt in the coming time.”


Hanoi resident Nguyen Hoang Anh said the movie does a nice job of depicting the elegant, tragic and romantic characteristics of living in Hanoi in the 1940s. 

But there are unrealistic battle scenes, some over-the-top theatrical dialogue and many illogical details, she told Radio Free Asia. The filmmakers should have made it clear that the story was a fictional reenactment of an historical event, she said.

“What worried me is that the film made viewers wrongly think that the French planned to kill all residents and whoever stayed back [in Hanoi] would die,” she said. 

“My family – both my mother’s and father’s sides – lived through that time in Hanoi,” she said. “In fact, there were options for those who decided to stay or leave.”

Wider screenings

The government spent 20 billion dong (US$812,000) to make the film, but didn’t allocate much funding for advertising or distribution, according to the state-affiliated VietNamNet, one of the country’s largest news portals.

In response to demand, the few theaters showing the movie have increased the number of screenings from three times per day to 15 daily, according to state media. 

As of Feb. 20, it has generated a revenue of more than 1 billion dong (US$40,600) – a surprising amount for a government-funded historical film.

Last week, distribution company BETA Media agreed to show the movie in theaters nationwide, the head of Vietnam’s Cinema Department, Vi Kien Thanh, told VietNamNet.

Translated by Anna Vu. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.


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