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Word HCMC's Woman of the Year: Sophie Hughes

By: Duncan Forgan Posted: January-22-2011 in
Photo Credit - Quinn Ryan Mattingly
Duncan Forgan

With its cutting-edge line-up of mini movies from Vietnam and elsewhere, Future Shorts has established itself as one of city’s coolest events. Duncan Forgan talks to Sophie Hughes, the driving force behind the Saigon installment of the global film festival, about a momentous twelve months.

“Can we go inside where it’s cooler?” asks a flushed looking Sophie Hughes as she pulls up outside the restaurant in Binh Thanh District that both of us call our local. “I’ve been running around like a madwoman all day.”

Such is life at the moment for an individual who has done as much as anyone lately to sharpen this city’s rather blunt cutting edge. Indeed, having arrived in Saigon in 2008 with only a vague notion of putting her experience in the UK as an arts development officer to use here, the Englishwoman has gone from being a curious onlooker to become one of the key creative forces in the city.

Follow the Art
Her journey started in earnest last year. Like many westerners weaned on a steady diet of cultural stimulation, Hughes found herself frustrated with the lack of leftfield action in Saigon.

“I was really keen to see more art-house cinema here,” she says. “Originally we were going to set up screenings with friends in bars but then I came across the Future Shorts concept and everything went from there.”

The online global film festival started life back in 2003 when its creative director Fabien Riggall began showing a selection of new short films in a public toilet turned venue in west London.

The idea took flight and the concept has become the largest film network in the world – a theatrical platform that currently comprises over 60 cities in 18 countries across the globe.

Each month films are selected to join Future Shorts’ monthly programme and are screened at venues in participating cities. While most of the line-up is chosen centrally in the UK, local curators are given scope to feature what they deem to be the best short features from their country during the screening.

With Hughes and her dedicated team, Duc and Lan, as curators, Saigon became one of the member cities in August last year. Since then, the monthly events have attracted a broad cross section of creatively curious locals, visitors and foreign residents. An indication of the growing popularity of the concept here is the fact that around 35 people had to be turned away from October’s event at Flow. Not bad going for a city where there’s supposedly limited interest in anything non-mainstream.

Growing Up Gracefully
“It has been a really great year,” says Hughes. “I suppose the easiest thing to do is to compare it to last year which was a lot of work in setting everything up. But over the last year we’ve built up a really good team of volunteers who deserve so much credit for their contributions.

“We have lots of bright young Vietnamese people who are getting experience with event management and marketing and stuff like that. So yeah, we’ve built up a really strong team and a good audience so I’m pretty happy about the way things are going.”

The momentum shows no sign of slowing. Future Shorts Hanoi launched earlier in the year and Hughes is now the director of Future Shorts Southeast Asia – a development she believes will further benefit the creative community here in Vietnam.

“We are going to have partners in all of the countries in the region” she adds. “So for local filmmakers that means that they have the opportunity to have their films shown in a number of different markets. The intention is to create a really strong South East Asian film culture.”

Republished with the kind permission of The Word HCMC


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