Re: Vietnamese films on the American war (multiple responses)

Stephen Denney (sdenney@IGC.APC.ORG)
Tue, 17 Nov 1998 22:50:28 -0800 (PST)

> From: <>
> Dear Phil,
> It is virtually impossible to buy or rent Vietnamese films save for the
> artistically safe THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA. The six Vietnamese films road-
> showed on 35mm are now in the vaults of UCLA. No attempt has been made to
> get them on video.

I believe one of the six films from Vietnam you are referring to is The
Retired General, based on a short story by Nguyen Huy Thiep, a somewhat
dissident writer from northern Vietnam on problems and disillusionment
experienced by a retired North Vietnamese general, about how much things
have changed in Vietnam in recent years, not all for the good. Another
movie I saw, on videotape, is Decent Stories, made by a group of northern
Vietnamese artists at the advent of Vietnam's turn toward reforms in
1986. One scene that sticks in my mind was a juxtaposition, in one scene
a group of Catholic nuns were aiding lepers in a leper colony, in the
next scence a group of high ranking Vietnamese Communist Party officials
were emerging from fancy limosines.

The director of Scent of Green Papaya made another movie which is also
available on videotape, Cyclo, set in present day Ho Chi Minh
City/Saigon, about a cyclo driver trying to find his way through an
underground world. Some critics said it was too sensationalistic, very
different then the other movie of this director.
Two movies I recall seeing that presented the experience of the southern
Vietnamese and the refugees: one (title I forgot) was based on the
novelist Duyen Anh's novel, Fanta Hill, about a group of juvenile
delinquents in a reeducation camp in the jungles of Vietnam; another
directed by a Hong Kong director around 1980, Boat People, about a
Japanese journalist who visited Vietnam after the war ended, but became
disillusioned when he witnessed the hardships of ordinary Vietnamese he
had befriended.

Most films produced in Vietnam would not have a wide audience in America
outside of the college towns and Vietnamese refugee audiences. However, I
do recall Oliver Stone directed the movie, When Heaven and Earth Changed
Places, based on the life of Le Ly Hayslip, a Vietnamese villager who was
caught up in the conflict, became a prostitute and then married an
American and came to the U.S. Personally I didn't care much for the
movie, but it did in any case represent the experience of one Vietnamese.

- Steve Denney