Many “sensitive scenes“ appearing in primetime television series and online platforms have stirred up public opinion in Vietnam.
The 2022 Law on Cinematography which took effect on January 1, 2023 stipulates that films are classified so that they can be disseminated to appropriate audiences. If not, they will be prohibited from screening.
Film rating by age is a concept related to the classification and regulations of movies. Censorship agencies consider factors to classify films, including nudity, violence, horror, drugs and stimulants. The regulations are applied to cinemas, TV systems, cyberspace, public cinemas and other audio/video means. Under the draft of a legal document, there are six film ratings.
Regulations not clear for TV series
While there are detailed regulations applied to movies, such regulations for TV and online series remain unclear.
The TV drama market has been developing strongly. Many shows draw special attention from mass media and viewers as they have high quality and diverse topics. However, arguments about content and sensitive images occur regularly.
With increasingly open censorship, filmmakers have recently developed films with topics about black society, the underground world and prostitutes.
Many television films have raised controversy because of 18+ּ scenes, such as ‘Nguoi phan xu’ (Judge), ‘Anh co phai dan ong khong’ (Are you a real man), Hanh trinh cong ly (The journey to justice) and others. The problem is that the “sensitive scenes” appear without warnings to the audiences in advance.
In ‘Nguoi phan xu’, one can see scenes between Phan Hai (Viet Anh) and ex-lover Van diep (Thanh Bi), and scenes of Phan Huong (Thanh Huong) making love with Khai (Anh Duc) in a bar’s toilet.
In ‘Tuoi thanh xuan 2’ (Youth 2), Phong (played by Manh Truong) is seen playing with many girls on a yacht. There is also a kiss between two girls. In ‘Song chung voi me chong’, the couple of Minh Van (Bao Thanh) and Thanh (Anh Dung), have many boudoir scenes.
‘Quynh bup be’ (Quynh doll) with a topic about prostitution, labeled as 18+ּ film, had to be broadcast late in the day instead of prime time as initially planned, after the public voiced its concern about the appearance of many sensitive scenes.
‘Quynh bup be’ is the first and the only TV drama series rated to date. After the film, the story about the age restrictions for films with hot scenes seems to be ignored. Other TV series, including ‘Nhung co gai trong thanh pho’ (The girls in the city), ‘Ga ra hanh phuc’ (Happy garage) and ‘Hanh trinh cong ly’ all have hot scenes.
Unsuitable hot scenes not only appear in films aired on the national television, but local television as well. ‘Tieng set trong mua’ (thunder in the rain), aired at prime time on Vinh Long TV channel, relates stories about incest between a stepmother and son-in-law, and between two brothers with the same mother and different fathers.
Meanwhile, ‘Hong nhan’ (Beauty) aired on SCTV14 has a scene of a character castrated by a group of gangsters.
While audiences criticize these scenes, many directors and film producers explain that the scenes are necessary for the films, and that all films must go through censorship before airing.
The arguments between audiences and filmmakers show a legal gap in censoring and dissemination of films. As the regulations and sanctions remain unclear, agencies are uncertain when dealing with films.
Problems in management
The fact that children, together with their family members, watch TV dramas full of such scenes worries many people.
Cong Hau, a well-known director, and deputy chair of the HCM City Cinema association, said the rating and classification system need to be implemented in a stricter manner. Censure needs to also be done for TV and online dramas.
“The management over foreign films is not tight. I can see that some television stations still air films with depraved and violence content. Though the televisions say that the films have been censored, it is still unclear about ratings and classifications,” Hau said.
“It is really dangerous as TV dramas target families with children,” he warned.
Vo Thanh Hoa, a well known director, said the process of censoring online works is somewhat looser compared with movies.