VETPAN, Vietnam — With his signature red and white checkered shirt, his red beard and bright orange tie, Jianhao Pang was the type of celebrity you didn’t want to miss on your next trip to Vietnam.
Pong was one of Vietnam’s most famous, a fixture in the country’s entertainment industry for nearly two decades, as well as the face of the countrys most popular tourist attraction, the Mekong Delta.
After years of playing a central role in the nations entertainment and fashion industries, Pang, 50, was cast in a movie that was shot in the early 2000s as the heir to a legendary TV host and martial arts expert.
His popularity was on the rise in the late 2000s, thanks to the movie that he directed and co-wrote, Vietnam’s New World, which chronicled his journey from the humble beginnings of a boy band, to rising to fame and wealth.
Pang, who has been dubbed a “king of entertainment” by The Associated Press and a “vulture” by TIME Magazine, told Foreign Policy that he was cast as an Asian star for the film due to the role that he played in the popular TV show.
In the film, he played a charismatic but arrogant leader who is the mastermind behind a vast military plot to overthrow the communist government in Vietnam.
But the role was too big for Pang.
“I was in the beginning of my career, so I didn’t feel like I had the skills,” Pang said in an interview with FP.
“I felt like I was going to be a failure.”
When he was working on the script, he had his own version of the plot that would have gone against his previous work.
He told FP, “I came up with a plot that was very different from my previous films, which were very complex and complicated.”
Pag was so upset by the casting that he filed a complaint with the Vietnam Film Association (VFA), a body tasked with regulating Vietnamese cinema.
He says he was told by the group that the film was rejected because it did not conform to Vietnamese standards of propriety and ethics.
“They told me that I should take a break, that it was not my style and that I could leave the country,” Pong said.
When he filed the complaint with VFA, Pong says that the VFA’s director, Nguyen Phu Trong, assured him that it wasn’t a problem.
But Pang says that Trong didn’t listen.
Pang told FP that the director said to him, “It’s the movie industry, you don’t have the right to complain.”
He says he then filed a grievance with the Vietnamese government and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, which has the power to investigate complaints.
According to Pang’s complaint, the VOA was told that he didn’t meet its standards and that he could not complain.
Pong’s grievance was filed with the Ministry for Public Security, the body that oversees Vietnam’s public security apparatus.
The VOA said it could not comment on Pangs case.
Instead, Pag was sent to a meeting of the VHA, the country�s national police, and was told, “This is what happens in the military and it’s the only way to do it.”
Pang filed a second grievance with VHA with a different complaint, but the same response was received, and the VTA refused to investigate the case.
Pong told FP he was also told by his VHA superiors, that if he reported any misconduct to the ministry, that he would be fired.
Pangs superiors, however, didn�t listen.
With the VDA and VHA in his corner, Pangs career was destroyed.
Pongs story was made into a film, which went into theaters in late 2017, and has been viewed more than 100 million times in the past five years.
PANG told FP in a phone interview that he felt so threatened by his superiors that he decided to file a complaint.
The Vietnam Film Festival is not alone in its fear of Pang and his career.
A Vietnamese movie critic, Nguyen Huu, also filed a lawsuit against the VVA for failing to investigate Pang�s complaint.
Huu told FP the VRA failed to protect the film’s reputation because it failed to have a full and honest investigation into Pang.� Pangs lawyer, Choe, says that Pang was trying to get the VMA to take action.
This movie was supposed to be the savior for Vietnam, but instead, it has been tarnished by the VBA, which is corrupt and it doesn�t serve the Vietnamese public well.”