Dean Wilson: American actor “stuck” in Vietnam

Published: 26/12/2008 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge – With charming blue eyes, bobbing blonde hair, an attractive smile, Dean Wilson looks more like a Hollywood actor than a lecturer. But actually, he is a doctor of cinematography and a lecturer of the Ford Foundation’s movie project in Vietnam, and called teacher Din by student.

Dean Wilson

VietNamNet Bridge – With charming blue eyes, bobbing blonde hair, an attractive smile, Dean Wilson looks more like a Hollywood actor than a lecturer. But actually, he is a doctor of cinematography and a lecturer of the Ford Foundation’s movie project in Vietnam, and called teacher Din by Vietnamese student-artists.

Students at the Hanoi-based University of Social Sciences and Humanities are very familiar with a foreign lecturer who is as handsome as an actor and rides a motorbike to school. Dean ought to have been in Vietnam for three years but he has been “stuck” in Vietnam for nearly four years.

Don’t jest with teacher Din!

Dean does different things for the movie project but his major job is a lecturer.

In daily life, Dean is a joyful, open man but he is very strict as a lecturer. His class is always the most attractive because students can study in the “American style”.

During his class, Dean doesn’t “stuff” a certain volume of knowledge in his students’ minds, but forces them to work, think and present their ideas.

Students are familiar with a tall and big teacher who holds a volleyball in his hands. That ball can fly anywhere and the one who catches the ball has to present his/her idea. No student can be lazy in Dean’s class. Each class, they learn something new from teacher Din, skills to speak to a crowd, the culture of discussion, and knowledge about cinematography.

Actually, Dean didn’t choose cinematography or teaching as his first jobs. He studied music at university and after graduation he worked as a musician for a short time. While working as a musician, he realised the connection between music and cinema and decided to return to university to get a degree in cinematography. He also researched philosophy and culture, then worked for a film firm in New York.

At first, cinema was not Dean’s passion, but a job to earn his living. He was in charge of different jobs in that film firm, from production assistant to editing, writing, and music advisor. But his love for cinematography was growing. Dean met independent film producers producing films with small amounts of money, but their love for cinema was always full. They transferred their passion and experience to Dean.

Dean spiralled into an unending circle. He went from project to project. One day, he suddenly decided to stop working at the film company to do a doctoral thesis on cinematography.

Two “love affairs” of teacher Din

Dean and his students.

While studying to earn his first university diploma, Dean researched and liked Oriental culture. In 2003, he came to Vietnam for the first time to study about Vietnamese history, culture and Buddhism through movies.

At the beginning, he planned to make a comprehensive research work of the Vietnamese cinema from the past to present. But when he started the research, he realised that Vietnamese movies were not as few as he had though. He chose the first period of Vietnamese movies, 1896-1926 to research. With the assistance of many Vietnamese and French friends, Dean completed his doctoral thesis about the Vietnamese movies, entitled “Vietnam on the silver screen from 1896 to 1926”.

While he worked on the thesis, Dean met many Vietnamese scriptwriters and film producers. He acknowledged that Vietnam had a shortage of scriptwriters. At the same time, some foreign organisations began funding the initiative to develop Vietnamese movies. The Ford Foundation’s idea to organise a scriptwriter and movie theory and critic training programme was supported.

In 2005, Dean started working for the Ford Foundation’s cinema project, in the role of a project consulter, and designed the course. It was then that he brought his volleyball to the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Besides studying, 20 members in Dean’s class had to write 20 pages for the class’ newspaper on cinema. These articles were posted on the class’ website for discussion.

Teacher Din always supports students who dare to be “crazy”. Good film scripts are always helped by Dean. Students go to Dean to seek his help in seeking funding for their film projects, research of Vietnamese movies, participation in local and international film festivals.

The Ford Foundation’s project would have ended in 2008 but Dean and some Vietnamese co-workers designed a project and convinced the foundation to continue funding the second phase of this project.

After many trips between Vietnam and the US, Dean persuaded the foundation’s managers to prolong this project three more years. After this project, Dean and his co-workers plan to design a long-term training project for Vietnamese students, using curricula of famous universities of cinema in the US.

He said Vietnam has had a movie market but local film producers are unable to control this market yet. Local film firms are looking to the Tet holiday to launch their films. Dean hopes that Vietnamese film producers will pay more attention to the entertaining aspect of cinema besides artistic films to have chances to bring their products to the audience not only at Tet.

Students often complain that teacher Din is lazy to learn Vietnamese. But Dean’s Vietnamese language is improving quickly. It turns out that he is about to marry a Vietnamese girl. Perhaps this marriage is one more reason for Dean to be more close to Vietnam and Vietnamese cinema in the future.

Tuan Hai

Update from:

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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