San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival 2013—Interview

It’s that time again! The San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival is having their second biennial film and video showcase featuring Vietnamese filmmakers in Viet Nam and the diaspora. diaCRITICS managing editor and DVAN intern, Estela Uribe, had the pleasure of sitting down with Isabelle Pelaud, Executive Director of DVAN, and Julie Thi Underhill, diaCRITICS managing director and San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival director to share with us their vision and inspiration behind the festival, the types of stories coming out of the festival, and which films they are excited about showing. A general introduction to the festival, below, is followed by the interview then the complete program. The San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival is the latest commitment of the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network, the arts organization that hosts diaCRITICS.

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The debut San Francisco Diasporic Vietnamese Film Festival, as some of you might remember, took place on April 23, 2011, at San Francisco State University’s Coppola Theater. With a slightly changed name, this year’s San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival occurs on April 27-28th at the historic Roxie Theater (3117 16th Street, San Francisco Mission District) located in the Mission district of San Francisco.

This 2-day film festival will launch with an Opening Night Gala ($10, 7:30-10pm, April 26) at Artists’ Television Access (992 Valencia St, San Francisco Mission District), including food, drink, mingling/mixing, music, and short poetry readings by Bay Area poets Việt Lê (also a filmmaker featured in the festival), Genny Lim, Bonnie Kwong, Paul Ocampo, and Tracy Nguyen—an exciting line-up of innovative and powerful Bay Area writers.

The San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival at the Roxie Theater expects over 2,000 attendees, watching over 20 films from many countries, including Việt Nam, Cambodia, Japan, Canada, France, Czech Republic, and the United States. The festival will feature narrative, documentary, and experimental films and videos by filmmakers such as Cuong Ngo (Pearls of the Far East), Hong-An Truong (Adaptation Fever series), Nguyễn Trinh Thi (a retrospective), Phương Thảo Trần and Swann Dubus (With Or Without Me). A director’s Q&A on Saturday night includes Việt Lê, Duc Nguyen, and Tony Nguyen, whose films are all showing at the festival, with their introduction. Trần Anh Hùng’s Norwegian Wood is the Opening Night feature. Each screening is $10, which may include multiple films or events. To view the program please visit the festival’s website, and for tickets visit the festival’s EventBrite page.


The following interview was conducted by DVAN intern and diaCRITICS managing editor Estela Uribe, with Julie Thi Underhill and Isabelle Thuy Pelaud, the director and supervisor of the festival, answering questions.

What is the vision for the San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival?

There is an incredible amount of quality film and video being made by Vietnamese people around the world, and since the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network is international in scope, the festival is one of our best ways to bring the works of the global Vietnamese community to the Bay Area. Although southern California has the Vietnamese International Film Festival, northern California had nothing to the effect, until our festival premiered in 2011. After our first festival at the Coppola Theater at SFSU, the audience literally refused to leave. The first question after the last screening, as the audience sat there in their seats not leaving the theater, was “When will this happen again?” So it was clear to us then, after a packed theater throughout the day, that there is an audience demand for Vietnamese film and video in the Bay Area. We decided to organize the festival on a biennial basis, and alternate with DVAN’s literary festival, to give our staff a rest in the off years for each program. This year we increased the film festival from one day to two, to allow for more extensive programming, and we moved the festival to a more centrally-located theater, the Roxie in the Mission, which is close to the 16th and Mission BART station for easier access through public transportation. And this year, unlike in 2011, we’re having a kick-off party at the Opening Night Gala at Artists’ Television Access, to give everyone a chance to get together and connect or reconnect, to eat, drink, and celebrate another great program of films. Our mission is generally to increase exposure to Vietnamese filmmakers wherever they live, supporting work of all genres and subjects, and to sustain a Bay Area audience that is interested in these kinds of films. Yet we want to have fun in the process, and we do, even as the festival requires a tremendous amount of work.

Why is it the San Francisco “Global” Vietnamese Film Festival and not the “International”?

There is another festival in Southern California called the Vietnamese International Film Festival, which we mentioned before. ViFF offers support and advice to DVAN and has recommended films to us. We are indebted to them in a variety of ways. At the beginning, ViFF requested that we not use “international” so there is no confusion between our two film festivals. So we decided first to use “diasporic” in 2011, and then to use “global” from here on out, since “global” includes the diaspora across the globe and the communities in Việt Nam. The word “global” is also more inclusive than our previous word “diasporic,” which was perceived by some as being too academic, since not everyone understands that “diaspora” means “dispersed.”

Any figures on the numbers of Vietnamese in the diaspora?

There are about 3 million people of Vietnamese descent living in the diaspora. In contrast, there are about 89 million people living in Việt Nam today, comprising over 50 ethnic groups.

Which countries are Vietnamese concentrated in, and which American cities/areas?

The Vietnamese are spread out across the globe, mostly in the U.S., Cambodia, France, Laos Australia, and Canada. According to the 2010 census, there are approximately 1.8 million Vietnamese in the U.S., concentrated in cities like San Jose, Garden Grove, Westminster, Houston, San Diego, and other locations with over 10,000 Vietnamese Americans.  Actually, Santa Clara County in the south Bay Area has over 125,000 Vietnamese. We anticipate that our audience will come from the surrounding areas including San Jose to attend our festival, since there is nothing else like it in Northern California and since their chances for seeing Vietnamese films on the big screen in Northern California are otherwise very tiny.

Are the war and refugee experiences still a predominant concern for the filmmakers and audiences?

Yes, but at the same time no, because our films are not limited to that topic. A lot of the time when people address Việt Nam in this country, they normally refer to the American war in Việt Nam. The words “Việt Nam” are almost synonymous for the war in this country, even as many of us agree that “Việt Nam is country not a war,” as the saying goes. Although the memories of war are still evident in communities affected by war, war is not the only thing on our minds, nor should it be. We express our connection to war or our disconnect from war, on our own terms. This means that our filmmakers have enlarged the conversation about war in significant ways.

As for films that address war in some capacity, we are screening five films that expand previous conversations about war as part of the history and memory of Việt Nam. Hong-An Truong’s Adaptation Fever series is an experimental video installation trilogy that investigates difference in relation to time, history, and memory through overdubbed narration in Vietnamese and French, and with some English subtitles. Hong-An Truong, a Vietnamese-American filmmaker, constructed each film using found footage of Việt Nam from during its French Indochina period. Her films are very compelling and haunting, even as they have elements of elusiveness and evasiveness, especially linguistically. These powerful short films left our programming committee in discussion for quite some time. We also saw one of them last October at the Troubling Borders exhibit of Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora at the Sweeney Gallery at UC Riverside, and found it lingering on our minds for days.

There’s also Tony Nguyen’s Enforcing the Silence, a documentary that investigates the 1981 murder of Lam Duong, who founded the Vietnamese Youth Development Center. The center is still there today, in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. In his investigative documentary, Tony Nguyen contemplates how tensions during the war spilled over onto U.S. soil, with five murders of Vietnamese-American journalists in the 1980s and 1990s. Lam’s life and death within this context is part of a history we don’t ever hear anything about, even within Asian American studies, a field that really got its start in the Bay Area. So we see this filmmaker expanding, in remarkable ways, the conversation about the ongoing effects of war on the Vietnamese-American community, in San Francisco and beyond. Although the American war officially ended in 1973 and the North Vietnamese took over the South in 1975, we still have a lot of political tension and strife in our diasporic communities. This film allows us to understand those tensions better, perhaps so that we can move beyond them, even as the film also hopes to help solve the mystery behind Lam’s murder.

And then there’s Duc Nguyen whose newest documentary, Stateless, centers stranded Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines after the closing of refugee camps left these refugees without legal status, barely surviving on their own with no place to call home. This film is very interesting to us and we expect it will attract a solid audience. We like and admire Duc Nguyen’s previous documentary Bolinao 52, about Vietnamese boat people whose stories are harrowing—stranded in the South China Sea on a damaged boat for so long, weeks, some were forced into cannibalism to stay alive. As with Bolinao 52, Duc Nguyen’s newest film also tells a hidden history of evacuations gone wrong, which few people know about. It especially complicates the tidy narrative of rescue by a benevolent asylum country that often characterizes the refugee flight from Việt Nam. Showing a sneak preview of Stateless is an honor for us, plus to have Duc Nguyen in person for a director’s introduction and for the Q&A on Saturday.

And a pioneer of Việt Nam’s independent cinema, Nguyễn Trinh Thi, made Chronicle of a Tape Recorded Over using an exquisite corpse method—first used by dadaists in the 1920s—as the filmmaker journeys over the American War’s notorious Hồ Chí Minh Trail asking her subjects to contribute to an assemblage film. And her Song to the Front takes a historical but rarely seen classic Vietnamese war film from 1973 as its central source, turning it into a small vignette that decomposes the aesthetic and romantic elements. Like Hong-An Truong, Nguyễn Trinh Thi is revisiting the archive and fashioning new conversations and interrogations from what she’s found there.

What are other stories coming out of the Global Vietnamese community, which you are highlighting?

The Vietnamese in Việt Nam and in the diaspora have developed new terminologies and engagements with their identities and with the world, even as we see parallels between our experiences and other people’s. So even the perspective of Vietnamese-Americans can be very transnational. Here’s a great example. Lin+Lam’s 2004 video essay Departure discusses modernization and foreign interventions through transportation methods. Made by two Vietnamese-American collaborators, whose short film Unidentified Vietnam No. 18 we screened in 2011, Departure is told in five different native languages by five women who recount interconnected histories of urban environments that have undergone transformation—Taipei, Shanghai, and Hanoi—all former colonial cities.

Our festival also shows films that center often-marginalized themes like queer desire, love, family, and/or kinship—in Việt Lê’s Love Bang!, Nguyễn Đình Anh’s Uncle & Son, and Leon Le’s Dawn—and the sexual awakening in teens in On Duty with Shu Qi from the Best of Yxine Film Festival, and heroin addiction and HIV illness in northwest Việt Nam, in With or Without Me. Four of those five films were shot in Southeast Asia—in Cambodia and in Việt Nam. And some films we’re screening are very much a hybrid and transnational creation between artists of many countries and identities, including our Opening Night feature, Trần Anh Hùng’s adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood. This movie was filmed by a Vietnamese-French director on location in Japan, home of the story’s author, then set to a score composed by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who is British. Which brings us back to music, something Murakami works into all his novels, this one no exception. Jonny Greenwood is British like the Beatles, whose song lends the title of novel and film. It’s interesting, all the connections and collaborations, crisscrossing the globe.  Norwegian Wood is a deeply affecting story of mourning and love set within the social upheavals in late 1960’s Tokyo, and a real treat for fans of either Trần Anh Hùng or Haruki Murakami.

Can you spotlight some screenings that you’re really excited about?

It’s really hard to choose among them, because the whole program is very solid. We are definitely excited to be showing Norwegian Wood, by one of the most respected and best-known filmmakers of Vietnamese descent. Some of Trần Anh Hùng’s movies that might already be familiar to our audience are Scent of Green Papaya, Cyclo, and Vertical Ray of the Sun. Haruki Murakami is a globally known author, wildly popular, who refused  to allow anyone to adapt his book until Trần Anh Hùng approached him.

Another film of particular interest is Enforcing the Silence by Tony Nguyen, which we talked about earlier. diaCRITICS editor Viet Nguyen reviewed it in 2011. The film speculates upon journalist Lam Duong’s murder in 1981 in San Francisco, after he reprinted articles from newspapers in postwar Việt Nam, then under Communist control. This film is essential viewing in San Francisco in particular, because it illuminates an important history for the local Vietnamese community. Tony Nguyen along with Việt Lê and Duc Nguyen will be doing a Q&A on Saturday night, so the audience is in for quite a treat having the directors present to discuss their filmmaking practices and motivations, and their next projects.

First time director Cuong Ngo, a Vietnamese-Canadian, has made a beautiful film with an all-star cast, Pearls of the Far East, about women’s frustrated search for love in Việt Nam. Its actors have starred before in The White Silk Dress, Vertical Ray of the Sun, Moon at the Bottom of the Well, The Clash, The Rebel, and Joy Luck Club. We’re happy to return these talented actors to the big screen in San Francisco—this film has great intergenerational appeal. It’s our first film by a Vietnamese-Canadian, too. And the second generation will be moved and amused by Mark Tran’s All About Dad, which tackles the theme of Vietnamese-American parental conservatism and rigid expectations with originality and humor. It screens as a double feature with Leon Le’s short film Dawn, which won three important awards at the Yxine Film Fest (YxineFF) 2012.




The San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival (April 26-28, 2013) is a biennial film and video showcase centering Vietnamese filmmakers in Việt Nam and the diaspora—reflecting the transnational nature of Vietnamese people today. The San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival (SFGVFF) is the first and only festival of its kind in the Bay Area. With an Opening Night Gala ($10, 7:30-10pm,  April 26) at Artists’ Television Access (992 Valencia St), the SFGVFF runs from 2:30pm to midnight each day, April 27-28, 2013, at the historic Roxie Theater (3117 16th Street) built in 1909 in the Mission district of San Francisco. The festival expects over 2,000 attendees.

Over 20 films from all over the world—including Việt Nam, Cambodia, Canada, France, Japan, Czech Republic, and the United States—will be showcased at our two-day festival. This year, the SFGVFF features narrative, documentary, and experimental films and videos by Cuong Ngo (Pearls of the Far East), Đỗ Quốc Trung (On Duty With Shu Qi), Duc Nguyen (sneak preview of Stateless), Hong-An Troung (Adaptation Fever series), Leon Le (Dawn), Lin+Lam (Departure), Mark Tran (All About Dad), Nghiêm Quỳnh Trang (Un Interrogatoire), Nguyễn Đình Anh (Uncle & Son), a retrospective by Nguyễn Trinh Thi, Phương Thảo Trần and Swann Debus (With Or Without Me), Tony Nguyen (Enforcing The Silence), Trần Anh Hùng (Norwegian Wood), Trần Dũng Thanh Huy (16-30), Trần Ngọc Sáng (Go Playing With Ice), and Việt Lê (Love Bang!). The festival is pleased to feature introductory talks and Q&A discussion with filmmakers/directors Việt Lê, Duc Nguyen, and Tony Nguyen.

Each screening is $10, and may include multiple films or events. Tickets available at EventBrite.

Our festival is sponsored in part by the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network, Zellerbach Family Foundation, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, and San Francisco Arts Commission.

The San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival is proudly part of the 16th annual United States of Asian America Festival.




Opening Night Gala

Doors open                                       7:30 pm
Doors close                                     10:00 pm

Opening Night Gala

The biennial San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival inaugurates, with a party, its 2013 showcase of filmmakers of Vietnamese descent from all over the world. The Opening Night Gala, held at Artists Television Access (992 Valencia Street in the Mission), offers you the chance to mix and mingle with filmmakers, film-lovers, spoken word performers, poets, and visual artists who’ve dropped by to celebrate northern California’s only Vietnamese-focused festival of films. Trailers for excellent films and videos playing over the next two days, at the nearby Roxie Theater, will be screened during the Opening Night Gala. The open mic invites Bay Area wordsmiths (of all persuasions) to read poems and perform spoken word. Music and refreshments (including cognac, chocolates, and entrees) are provided by the festival’s host organization, Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network, whose aim is to promote Vietnamese artists from across the globe, including the generations born in the diaspora. Please drop by to celebrate their launch of the 2013 San Francisco Global Vietnamese Film Festival, because everyone loves a good beginning. The event is $10 but includes food, drink, and merriment, thanks in part to Opening Night Gala sponsors Martell Cognac, Le Colonial, Hodo Soy Beanery, Rau Om, Sugar Bowl Bakery, and 1000 Fine Events.

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Hong-An Truong — Adaptation Fever series  |  Lin + Lam — Departure

Doors open                                     2:25 pm
Introduction by Việt Lê                   2:40 pm
Screening begins                          2:45 pm
Screening ends                             4:00 pm


Hong-An Troung’s ADAPTATION FEVER (2006-2007 | US | experimental video installation | 20 min) is a trilogy that both appropriates and disrupts the archive. ‘The Past is a Distant Colony,’ ‘A Story in the Process of Self-Alienation,’ ‘It’s True Because It’s Absurd,’ and ‘Explosions in the Sky’ were each constructed using found footage of Viet Nam during its French Indochina period, to explore questions about the politics of representation and the construction of difference in relation to history, time, and memory. The split screen and juxtaposition become a simple technique whereby the “real” and by extension, its historical referent, are permanently deferred objects, further diminished through the overdubbed narratives in Vietnamese and French which are only briefly summarized in English subtitles. Playing with the idea that nostalgia can be evoked without memory or experience, and also by the co-dependent relationship between the West’s present and the Other’s desire for that present, this video appropriates archival images as a way to consider translation, postcolonial subjectivity, and sentimentality. With an introduction by Việt Lê, curator and director of LOVE BANG! (screening later at 4:30.)


After that, Lin+Lam’s DEPARTURE (2004 | US | video essay | 48 min) considers modernization and foreign intervention, through transportation methods. Shot from the exploratory perspective of moving car, cycle, and trains, the video travels through three former colonial Asian cities: Taipei, Shanghai, and Hanoi. In recognition of language hierarchies and the politics of translation, five women narrate interrelated histories of urban environments under transformation, in their native languages—Mandarin Chinese, Taiwanese, English, Shanghainese, and Vietnamese.

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Việt Lê — Love Bang!  |  Nguyễn Trinh Thi — Retrospective

Doors open                                    4:15 pm
Screening begins                          4:30 pm
Screening ends                             5:45 pm


Việt Lê’s LOVE BANG! (2012 | Cambodia | music video | 5.5 min) is a sexperimental music video exploring the Southeast Asian popular culture scene with a fantastic vision of queer love. Lê’s sensational trilingual hip pop song (Vietnamese, Khmer and English) also reveals contradictions in modernity and memory of Southeast Asia’s fraught history of war and trauma. “Hip pop” is a fictitious cross between pop and hip hop. The disjunctured video features a queer, star-crossed, time-traveling war-time love triangle. Sounds complicated? Love is! Filmed in Cambodia, Lê collaborated with many talented artists to realize his retro sci-fi pop vision. Working during the summer of 2011 with Phnom-Penh based musician and music producer DJ Peanut, he recorded a new song which samples Fleetwood Mac’s Riahannon (1975) and the iconic Thanh Lanh’s Vietnamese and French rendition of Cher’s 1966 hit Bang Bang. Cambodian rapper RJ co-penned the Khmer rap lyrics and soulful singer Dollar sang the bittersweet hook. After several reworkings of the song, using different singers and numerous recordings in Peanut’s studio, they got the sound they wanted. LOVE BANG! is the first installment of a video/ photographic trilogy executed and exhibited in Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, and Los Angeles. These three global cities are contradictory characters, metaphors, and mirrors for the lovers. The project addresses the intersections of trauma, memory and modernity. The new songs pay tongue-in-cheek homage to Vietnamese and Cambodian tunes as well as Western pop songs, which are ever-present on the streets of the two countries.

Chronicle of a Tape Recorded Over

Followed by a retrospective by Nguyễn Trinh Thi, a pioneer of Viêt Nam’s independent cinema, featuring LOVE MAN LOVE WOMAN, SPRING COMES WINTER AFTER, CHRONICLE OF A TAPE RECORDED OVER, and SONG TO THE FRONT (86 min total). In LOVE MAN LOVE WOMAN (2007 | Việt Nam | documentary | 52 min), through Master Luu Ngoc Duc, one of the most prominent spirit mediums in Hanoi, and his vibrant community, Trinh Thi explores how effeminate and gay men in homophobic Vietnam have traditionally found community and expression in the country’s popular Mother Goddess Religion, Đạo Mẫu. Using footage from the public funeral of an important poet who was banned for decades in Vietnam, SPRING COMES WINTER AFTER (2008 | Việt Nam | experimental film | 4 min) is connected to the political and historical situation of the country, provoking some questions still impermissible to be asked publicly in present-day Việt Nam. What if one can play history in reverse and then replay it again? CHRONICLE OF A TAPE RECORDED OVER (2010 | Việt Nam | single-channel | 25 min) uses ‘exquisite corpse’, a method by which each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, as the filmmaker journeys over the Việt Nam War’s notorious Hồ Chí Minh Trail. Along once-contested roads, the filmmaker asked local villagers to contribute their tales while the camera was observing their present-day life, merging past with present, reality with fiction, in her effort to assemble a piece of collective history, a history told by the people from the bottom up. And SONG TO THE FRONT (2011 | Việt Nam | single-channel | 5.25 min) takes a historical Vietnamese war film from 1973 as its central source. Re-editing ‘Bai ca rat ran (Song to the Front)’, produced by the Vietnam Feature Film Studio and directed by Tran Dac, Trinh Thi has turned this rarely seen black and white classic feature into a small vignette that decomposes the aesthetic and romantic elements of this social-realist melodrama.  At the core of her work, a progressive exploration of her personal vision, Nguyễn Trinh Thi pays attention to gestural details, to the expressive faces of people who expose themselves and emerge out of the backdrop of a chaotic world. Her gaze is silent, anxious, humanist.

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Tony Nguyen — Enforcing the Silence  |  Q&A with Việt Lê, Duc Nguyen, and Tony Nguyen

Doors open                                     6:10 pm
Director’s introduction                    6:25 pm
Screening begins                           6:30 pm
Q&A                                                 7:30 pm
Ends                                                 9:00 pm


Tony Nguyen’s ENFORCING THE SILENCE (2011 | US | documentary | 60 min) speculates upon the unsolved 1981 murder of Lam Duong, who once founded the Vietnamese Youth Development Center in San Francisco and published a liberal newspaper that reprinted stories from communist Việt Nam following the Việt Nam War. On July 21, 1981, the 27-year-old was shot dead outside his apartment. Local police have never convicted his murderer(s). Yet within days of Lam’s murder, news spread that a shadowy, anti-Communist group had claimed responsibility, sending a chilling message to Vietnamese refugees everywhere—stay in line with your political views or risk death. Between 1982 and 1990, five more Vietnamese Americans—four of them journalists—were violently killed, many believe for political reasons. Vietnamese journalists are the largest group of immigrant journalists murdered on U.S. soil, claiming five lives out of the ten immigrant journalists killed in America since 1981. All the Vietnamese murders were linked to a terrorist group in the Vietnamese American community, but police and federal officials have yet to solve any of the cases, including Lam’s. Thirty years later, new filmmaker Tony Nguyen unlocks the mystery of Lam Duong’s life and death, and uncovers truths that Vietnamese Americans have never publicly explored. For the first time on film, Lam’s loved ones, federal investigators, and present-day journalists speak out about their experiences and reveal the risks that Vietnamese Americans have faced for exercising their first amendment rights in the U.S. Mixing personal interviews with startling historical and present-day footage, ENFORCING THE SILENCE provides a disturbing in-depth look at a war-torn community that continues to struggle to find its place in a democratic society. As the U.S. finds itself entrenched in conflicts in the Middle East, this film offers fresh insight into the long-term costs of war.

This screening includes a panel/Q&A with filmmakers/directors Tony Nguyen, Duc Nguyen of STATELESS, and Việt Lê of LOVE BANG!

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Trần Anh Hùng — Norwegian Wood — Opening Night Feature

Doors open                                   9:15 pm
Screening begins                         9:30 pm
Screening ends                           11:45 pm


Trần Anh Hùng’s NORWEGIAN WOOD (2010 | Japan | drama, romance | 133 min) illustrates Toru Watanabe’s deeply conflicting emotions during an already volatile time of global instability, set in late-1960s Tokyo. Students around the world were uniting to overthrow the establishment and Toru Watanabe’s personal life was similarly in tumult. At heart, he was devoted to his first love, beautiful and introspective Naoko, a bond forged by the long-ago tragic death of their friend. Watanabe lived with the influence of death, until an outgoing, vivacious, supremely self-confident girl, Midori, entered his life, forcing him to choose. Based on the bestselling novel by Haruki Murakami, this film ultimately concerns a young university student’s encounters with love, death, and loss in 1960s Japan, as he is torn between his desires for two very different women. Filmmakers hoping to adapt the celebrated novel repeatedly approached the reclusive Murakami, who refused to permit an adaptation until asked by acclaimed Vietnamese-French director Trần Anh Hùng (CYCLO, THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA, VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN.)

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Duc Nguyen— Stateless

Doors open                                    2:30 pm

Director’s Introduction                   2:45 pm
Screening begins                           2:50 pm
Screening ends                              3:50 pm


Duc Nguyen’s STATELESS (US, Philippines | 2012 | documentary | 57 min) follows Vietnamese refugeees stranded in the Philippines for nearly two decades after the closure of refugee camps. Caught at the low tide of compassion fatigue by the international community, evidenced by the closure of refugee camps in Southeast Asia, the refuges found themselves without a home country. The arriving asylum seekers were forced to repatriate to their origin countries. These particular group of Vietnamese refused to return. Thus, they survived on borrowed land and carved out an existence on the fringe of society. Without legal rights, they could not be employed, own properties or conduct business in the Philippines. In 2005, U.S. immigration officials returned to Manila to look into their cases. STATELESS depicts the tribulation of the unwanted refugees who survived on a glimpse of hope to find a home. It reveals the struggle and resiliency of the asylum seekers as they patiently hang on to the dream of a permanent home. Heart wrenching and inspiring, their stories demonstrate the will to sacrifice almost everything to gain the right to be called a citizen. This is a sneak preview screening, just ahead of full completion of the film. Filmmaker/director Duc Nguyen will be present for a director’s introduction, after appearing on Saturday April 27 (7:30pm) for the filmmaker/director Q&A with Việt Lê of LOVE BANG! and Tony Nguyen of ENFORCING THE SILENCE.

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Phương Thảo Trần & Swann Dubus — With or Without Me

Doors open                                 4:00 pm
Screening begins                        4:15 pm
Screening ends                           5:30 pm


Phương Thảo Trần and Swann Dubus’s documentary WITH OR WITHOUT ME/ TRONG HAY NGOAI TAY EM (2011) is an intimate and sensitive portrayal of two heroin addicts strung out at the edge of the map of Điện Biên province. Thi and Trung live in the lush, rice-terraced mountains of Việt Nam’s far northwest. Like many young men living on the main heroin route from Laos to China, however, they’re both addicts who’ve contracted HIV from sharing dirty needles. Both struggle with addiction and illness throughout the film, as they wrestle with the possibilities of living or dying. WITH OR WITHOUT ME was made  with the support of Medical Committee Netherlands Vietnam (MCNV). The film has screened at film festivals in Germany and Italy.

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Cuong Ngo — Pearls of the Far East

Doors open                                    5:45 pm
Screening begins                          6:00 pm
Screening ends                              7:45 pm


Cuong Ngo’s PEARLS OF THE FAR EAST (Canada, Việt Nam | 2011 | drama | 103 min) threads the inner lives and forbidden loves of seven Vietnamese women, with breathtaking scenes filmed throughout Việt Nam. Adapted from award-winning stories by Minh Ngoc Nguyen, produced by award-winning filmmakers Igor Szczurko & Tom Yarith Ker, Cuong Ngo weaves a vivid, timeless and unforgettable tapestry with characters brought to life by a gorgeous cast of acclaimed talent from Việt Nam, U.S. and Canada. Seven interrelated short films depict women who are unable to attain love, focusing on their feelings of loneliness and unrequited sense of longing. The film crosses generations, reflecting the different stages of love, beginning with a pair of children and ending with a lonely retired actress. Ngo draws attention to women in Việt Nam and their emotional battles with desire and repression. The star-studded cast includes actresses Truong Ngoc Anh (THE WHITE SILK DRESS, 2006), Nhu Quynh (VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN, 2000), Hong Anh (MOON AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WELL, 2009), Ngo Thanh Van (THE CLASH, 2010, THE REBEL, 2007), Minh Ngoc Nguyen, and the legendary Kieu Chinh (JOY LUCK CLUB, 1993).

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Various Yxine Filmmakers — Best of Yxine Film Festival — Five Shorts

Doors open                                   8:00 pm
Screening begins                          8:15 pm
Screening ends                             9:35 pm


From the Best of Yxine Film Festival! Nguyễn Đình Anh‘s UNCLE & SON (2012 | Việt Nam | drama | 15 min) shows a boy’s tragic decision to bring a better life to his uncle, with unforeseen consequences. The film is full of emotions, typical of the folklore of Southern Vietnam. It also invites thinking about social prejudice and lack of empathy for humans who are different. Nghiêm Quỳnh Trang’s UN INTERROGATOIRE (2011 | Czech, France, Việt Nam | psychological drama | 15.5 min) uses flashback to show the memories, deceptions, and realities underlying a young newlywed Vietnamese student’s residency permit interview in France, after she marries a young Frenchman. The filmmaker gradually leads viewers into Minh’s puzzling and troubled inner world. Đỗ Quốc Trung’s ON DUTY WITH SHU QI (2012 | Việt Nam | drama | 22 min) addresses the sexual awakenings of teens in a straightforward manner. These initial contacts, whether surprising or daring, honest or cheeky, are only the foundation for two lonely individuals—a weird guy and an infamous hot girl in high school—to find their way to each other, in defiance of everything. Trần Ngọc Sáng’s GO PLAYING WITH ICE (2011 | Việt Nam |  drama | 11.5 min) revolves around three generations of ice deliverers, within the engaging landscape of the south. The film also poses several questions regarding the role of passion at work – one thing that is gradually fading away in the feverish urbanization of a changing city. Trần Dũng Thanh Huy’s 16-30 (2012 | Việt Nam | action | 17 min) follows young boys selling betting results—16:30 is not only their starting time for work,  it is the time TV stations broadcast lotto results.

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Leon Le — Dawn  |  Mark Tran All About Dad |  Closing Night Short & Feature

Doors Open                                 9:50 pm
Screening begins                      10:05 pm
Screening ends                         11:20 pm


Leon Le’s DAWN (2012 | US | drama | 10 min) depicts two prejudiced presumptuous strangers, with much in common. After Tye perceives a racist glance from another passenger on the commuter train, a confrontation ensues. While disputing their differences, Tye discovers that what they share in common is actually what angers him the most. Both are forced to directly face their presumptions of each other and through the experience are left with a greater sense of the interconnectedness of human beings. DAWN won three important awards at the Yxine Film Fest (YxineFF) 2012, including the “Golden Heart” prize for best film in the international competition category, “Best Directing,” and a “Rainbow Heart” as the best feature on LGBT issues.


Mr. Do has raised his kids to be good Catholics and to live up to his unrealistic expectations, in Mark Tran’s ALL ABOUT DAD (2009 | US | drama | 80 min). His son Ty is abandoning pre-med to chase a less practical dream, while Linh is keeping her fiancé’s Buddhist background a secret. However, they aren’t the only kids with secrets in the Do family. It’s time Dad faces the truth that his children have grown up. Delightfully hilarious, yet mixed with great tenderness and humanism, ALL ABOUT DAD addresses the familiar theme of old world father vs. new world kids with deftness and originality.

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SFGFVV Staff & Sponsors


Estela Uribe, a student at San Francisco State University, is a DVAN intern and managing editor of diaCRITICS.

Isabelle Thuy Pelaud is Associate Professor in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University. She authored This Is All I Choose To Tell: History and Hybridity in Vietnamese American Literature and co-edited Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora. A more comprehensive list of her publications is available here.

Julie Thi Underhill is a filmmaker, photographer, poet, and essayist. As a Cham-French-American (grand)daughter of conflicts in French Indochina/Việt Nam, her artistic and academic work addresses colonialism and war. She is in Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, Troubling Borders: An Anthology of Art and Literature by Southeast Asian Women in the Diaspora, and many other collections. Her website has a complete list of publications.

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