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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 February, 2003, 13:10 GMT
Vietnam sex workers film a hit

By Clare Arthurs
BBC, Ho Chi Minh City

A Vietnamese film about sex workers is drawing record audiences, despite the Communist government's ban on so-called "social evils".

Now showing in Ho Chi Minh City, the film - Gai Nhay or Bar Girls - tells a tragic story about a group of young and mostly poor bar girls involved in sex, drug abuse and finally murder.

It also contains dramatic scenes when several of the young women reveal they have contracted HIV/Aids.

Cinemas in Ho Chi Minh City have increased the number of daily screenings of the film Gai Nhay or Bar Girls to cope with the demands of local audiences.

The manager of the Diamond Cinema, Byun Sang Gil, has increased showings to six a day in response to demand from a public which he says is fascinated to learn about the life of the bar dancers.

Taboo subjects

Although prostitution and drug use are major social problems in Vietnam, it is largely taboo to debate the issues involved.

The ruling Communist authorities deal with the related public health problems in the same basket as criminal behaviours.

The film's director, Le Hoang, has said he hopes the film will turn young people away from vice.

To prepare for their roles, the actresses visited bars and what Vietnam euphemistically calls "drug rehabilitation centres".

The story follows a journalist trying to write a story about a group of friends whose lives turn for the worse as they sink deeper into sex and heroin and eventually contract the virus which can lead to Aids.

Tragic endings

One dies from an overdose and the others retaliate by murdering their pimp.

The film closes when one of the bar girls finally meets her Mr Right but discovers she has the virus.

According to the state media, Bar Girls was produced by the state production company, Liberation Film, which spent a record $4,000 on advertising.

Unlike the Hollywood production of The Quiet American which was released recently here, this film has so far not appeared on pirate disks in the city markets.

That is a good sign for continuing success when it is released in the capital Hanoi next week.

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19 Sep 02 |  Entertainment
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Timeline: Vietnam
24 Jan 02 |  Asia-Pacific

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