Faculty Colloquium Series: Olga Dror (HIST) 09/21/2021
“Normalizing Ho Chi Minh: Ideological Demands, Popular Appeal, and A Free Market Economy in the Vietnamese Movie Industry (1990-2020)”
Tuesday, September 21, 2021 | 4-5pm
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Dr. Olga Dror
Professor, History, 2019-20 Glasscock Faculty Research Fellow
In the article, Dror discusses the creation of Ho Chi Minh’s image in modern Vietnamese cinema from 1990 to the present. The first feature film on Ho Chi Minh was produced in 1990, thirty-one years after his death. Since then, another six films have appeared. In this talk, Dror explores the reasons why no feature film on Ho Chi Minh appeared before that time and the reasons why they eventually appeared.
Dror addresses the attempts of filmmakers to re-introduce Ho Chi Minh, especially to the younger generations who know of him only through propaganda depicting him as a celibate paragon of virtue and through the exposure of his body in the Mausoleum, to which he himself objected. The films attempt to “normalize” Ho Chi Minh through supplying him with romantic interests, inventing spies and assassins that never existed, and portraying him as a simple, down-to-earth person as was propagandized during his lifetime. The attempts to “normalize” Ho Chi Minh stem not only from ideological considerations but also from the reality introduced by the market economy that requires everybody, even the state, to create commercially attractive products.
In the end, Dror analyzes the successes and failures of these movies. She argues that the cinematographic promotion of Ho Chi Minh has done very little to develop, or even maintain, his cult of personality, a cult that the state endeavors to exploit to (re)establish its connection to the population, to overcome the prolonged crisis of legitimacy, and to garner popular support for its view of the future of the country under the leadership of the Communist Party. The market economy and openness to the world inevitably undermine Ho Chi Minh’s cult and the ideological construct that it is summoned to support.
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