Director Phan Dang Di: Creative cultural spaces help us position ourselves more clearly

Sunday, 2021-07-11 16:38:32
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Phung Hung mural painting street contributes to honouring, preserving and promoting the values of Hanoi's Old Quarter. (Photo: Danh Trong)
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NDO – Director Phan Dang Di is the founder and operator of the creative cultural hub “Gap go mua thu” (Autumn Meeting), one of the few such spaces in Vietnam to have been successful in operating and connecting with the world in the field of cinema.

Talking to Nhan Dan (People’s) Newspaper, he emphasised the role of creative cultural hubs in the operation and development of an urban area and even a nation.

Q: According to your observations, how have creative cultural spaces in Vietnam made progress over recent years?

A: In the three years of accompanying the creative cultural space project launched by the British Council and the Vietnam National Institute of Culture and Arts along with seven years of managing the “Autumn Meeting” hub, I’ve observed that all creative cultural spaces in Vietnam are scattered and fragmented. Most strong creative spaces only appear in Hanoi; meanwhile a vibrant market like Ho Chi Minh City has very few such spaces.

Q: How do you evaluate the role of cultural spaces in the development of an urban area and further a country?

A: Creative cultural spaces are very popular in many countries. I used to visit creative cultural hubs in the UK, Iceland and Taiwan (China). Their cultural and artistic spaces for the community are diverse and independent. They operate are motivated by self-necessity from beneficiaries and those who see it as a need. Thereby, they find the means to open different creative cultural spaces. The governments’ roles are only in the support and recognition of creative cultural spaces as an important entity in the development of culture in general. They see it as a must-have demand of social development towards civilisation because without such creative cultural spaces, the cultural and artistic activities of an urban area and a country will be deficient. As a result, people will have no choice but to become consumers of cultural products with investment on an industrial scale. In fact, if there are no creative cultural spaces to create unique areas and playgrounds for people, they can only rely on industrial products.

Small countries that have not had the conditions to promote their creative industries have become the consumption markets of creative industrial products from foreign countries. Meanwhile, developed nations have understood that risk, so they have appreciated the role of creative cultural hubs. They are very important in creating diversity and richness in cultural enjoyment and reception. They have always prioritised and found ways to support such spaces to operate smoothly and enhance their connection with others both in the country and abroad. In an era of globalisation, the world is open and the boundaries among the countries are blurred; therefore, these creative cultural spaces help us position ourselves more clearly.

Director Phan Dang Di

Q: You have managed the “Autumn Meeting” creative cultural hub. Could you share about your experiences, difficulties and opportunities?

A: “Autumn Meeting” can be said to be a successful and only creative space in the field of cinema. For seven years, we have made great efforts to operate the hub, gaining various achievements such as connecting many young talents in the country and region together and the international and regional prizes awarded to many short films. In the first year, the hub attracted a group of domestic young people and I only invited director Tran Anh Hung to teach with a limited budget. However, since the second year, we have been making international connections to broaden the horizons and minds of young filmmakers. If we don't have the opportunity to exchange, we will never develop. The advantage of “Autumn Meeting” is the connection and exchange with internationals, thereby creating many opportunities for talented young people. I think the sacrifices of the operators of creative cultural spaces are very necessary. They must be passionate, enthusiastic and transparent in the management of those spaces.

Q: In your opinion, why have creative cultural spaces in Vietnam not created and developed a good connection network even though Hanoi has been recognised as a member of UNESCO’s Network of Creative Cities?

A: Perhaps, an important reason is that up to now, we have always thought that cultural issues were managed and operated by the State. That mindset has limited the expansion of independent individuals or organisations. In recent years, there have been changes, coming from the fact that a number of artists who returned from studying abroad want to make contributions to the development of the country's culture, so they have organised creative spaces. However, we need opener views to promote the development of larger and more methodical creative cultural spaces in Vietnam in the near future. To operate a creative cultural space in the long run, it is crucial to attract well-trained artists in terms of art management, finance and operation methods.

Q: Perhaps, the most important thing for cultural creative hubs in Vietnam today is the support in policies from the State agencies. Have there been any moves related to policies in recent time?

A: In recent years, the Government has recognised the role of non-public cultural institutions and created a legal corridor for these institutions to operate more smoothly. However, compared to other countries, we still have many limitations. We have not yet created strong support from many sides because, as I analysed above, we still consider arts and culture as the industries under the management of the State. Therefore, there has been a break in discussions to come up with a common strategy. I think this is the time for State agencies to see the non-public cultural spaces as an independent entity that makes useful contributions to the general face of the national culture. We need bigger activities and better strategies for the cause of cultural development.

We should also share resources more equitably with non-public entities. In my opinion, it is necessary to offer opportunities for all cultural activists in any aspects to have a clearer voice, be treated more fairly, and be more proactive in accessing resources.

Thank you very much!

Hanh Nguyen
Translated by NDO