“The Third Wife” was pulled from movie theaters in Vietnam after audiences expressed outrage about controversial sex scenes involving then 13-year-old actress Nguyen Phuong Tra My.
Although “The Third Wife” was praised internationally, the Ash Mayfair-directed film received backlash from viewers in Vietnam when it made its premiere in May 2019. However, the Ho Chi Minh-born director and the producers decided to withdraw the movie from cinemas days after it was released.
According to The Straits Times
, audiences were shocked to see My, who was 13 years old when she shot the film, have an intimate moment with a much older co-star on-screen. They later blasted the 34-year-old director for her decision to cast such a young actress for the role.
Following the controversy, Mayfair spoke to The Hollywood Reporter
to defend her side and her rights to make a movie.
“I am speaking up for artists and for the right to create,” she said. “This [controversy] cannot make Vietnamese artists afraid to express their viewpoint.”
The actress’ mother was also targeted by the audience which slammed her for allowing My to play the character. Some of them also wondered if My’s mother was blinded by fame and money.
But Mayfair told THR they “didn’t do anything wrong” and broke no law in “The Third Wife.”
“They can’t attack us on those grounds so there have been attempts to smear the ethics of the actress’ mother, publishing her personal details on line and saying she had sold her daughter for money,” Mayfair continued.
“The Third Wife
,” set in the late 19th century in rural Vietnam, follows the story of 14-year-old May (My) who becomes the third wife of a wealthy landowner through an arranged marriage.
Before the film hits theaters and film festivals, Mayfair had already anticipated the reactions “The Third Wife” would receive in Vietnam.
“These questions are open for debate and I have no problem with that,” Mayfair said. “We talk about women’s rights and we are very critical about patriarchal traditions that have been in the country for centuries.”
Officials working in child protection were against the use of child actresses being made to perform in sexually explicit scenes, adding that it could have psychological effects on the child, VnExpress
The now 15-year-old My, who reportedly convinced her parents for the role, became upset after learning many Vietnamese people wouldn’t be able to see “The Third Wife.” She was selected after more than 900 candidates auditioned for the movie.
The filmmakers of “The Third Wife” were reportedly fined around $2,000 for failing to comply with the Vietnam censors’ initial request to make three cuts in the production. However, they invited Mayfair to resubmit the film again for approval, but the director declined to make further cuts.
The movie was met with wide critical acclaim overseas and won awards at international film festivals. It was also honored by a Special Mention prize at the Bangkok Asean Film Festival in July.