Chuyen cua Pao (Pao’s story) and Ao lua Ha Dong (The white silk dress) are the two Vietnamese entries at the Busan International Film Festival which opened a few days ago in the Republic of Korea.

They are among 245 films from 63 countries competing for the New Current Award.

Chuyen cua Pao

Chuyen cua Pao, directed by Ngo Quang Hai, is set in a breathtaking milieu in Vietnam’s northern mountains and tells the story of a Hmong girl named Pao.

She is raised by her stepmother after her real mother leaves her when she is little. One day, her stepmother dies in an accident, and Pao begins to track down her birth mother.

But her journey reveals more than she bargained for – family events from the past that leave her shaken.

The film won the Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Cinematography awards at the 2006 National Film Awards (The Golden Kites) in Vietnam last March.

Last month, it was among five films short-listed from 24 from all over the world for the First Film Award at the Montreal Film Festival in Canada.

It also received an invitation to attend Japan’s Fukuoka Film Festival.

It is also scheduled to compete at other film festivals later this year and early next, including the Missouri festival in the US, Asian Film Festival in Tokyo, Asia Pacific Film Festival in Taiwan, and the Sundance Film Festival in the US.

Ao lua Ha Dong

Ao lua Ha Dong, a five-year production which at over US$2 million is the most expensive film ever made in Vietnam, relates the misfortunes of its two central characters, Dan and her humpbacked husband, and their efforts to hold on to a precious Ha Dong silk dress that belonged to Dan’s mother.

The film was shot in Vietnam’s northern and central regions and one of its scenes needed recreating a flood.

The filmmakers had to blockade a village in Hoi An. A dam surrounding the village was set up using thousands of sand-bags and water was pumped in to give the impression of a flood. More than 1,000 extras were used for the evacuation scenes.

Ao Lua Ha Dong is the first Vietnamese film to use the ‘flying-cam’ technique, which was achieved by hiring American and Singaporean technicians.

At Cannes 2005, an extended trailer of Ao Lua Ha Dong impressed audiences with its beautiful scenes and unique Vietnamese style imagery.

The Busan International Film Festival, held annually since 1996, is one of the most significant in Asia. Its focus is to introduce new films and first-time directors, especially from the Third World.

Another notable feature is the appeal of the festival to young people. It attracts large youthful audiences.

Source: Thanh Nien, VietnamNet, Vietnam News  – By Luu Thi Hong

Links and Resources

October 17, 2006

Background on History and Culture

Vietspring: History and Culture

Viettouch: History, Art and Culture

Wikipedia: History of Vietnam

Southeast Asia Studies Summer Institute Vietnam Page

An Introduction to Vietnam

Current Events

Yahoo! News on Vietnam

The Economist – Country Briefings – Vietnam

The United States Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam

Google News Alerts: Sign up for regular Google news alerts on Vietnam.

News from Vietnam

Vietnam News

The Communist Party of Vietnam

Vietnam News: The national English language daily newspaper in Vietnam.


Saigon Times

Vietnam Embassy in Washington, DC

Vietnam Consulate in San Francisco, CA

Learning Vietnamese

Southeast Asia Studies Summer Institute Vietnamese Language Page

Free Vietnamese Online

Vietnamese Dictionary Online

Online English-Vietnamese dictionary

Online English-Vietnamese dictionary

Blogs about Vietnam

Our Man in Hanoi

Virtual Doug


Street kids in vietnam

Vietnamese god

Non-governmental Organizations (NGOS)

The NGO Resource Center in Hanoi, Vietnam

UNDP in Vietnam: Sign up for various listservs in the Forum section

VietGate – Listing of Nonprofits in Vietnam

East Meets West Foundation

Room to Read

Friends of Hue Foundation

Pacific Links Foundation

Travel Information

Lonely Planet Vietnam Page


American Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi

VietGate – Vietnamese cooking recipes

Vietnam Journal: Online quarterly magazine for scholars of Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora.

Readings on Vietnam by Andrew Lam, Pacific News Service

13:34′ 17/10/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: HA 927037 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
Vietnamese ao dai.

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam has chosen the traditional attire of “ao dai” (long gown) and “khan dong” (turban) as the costume for APEC leaders during a photo-taking ceremony at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Hanoi in November.

Though the style is now rarely seen in Vietnamese people’s daily life, except for rituals or performances of folk songs, the costume had been an indispensable part of every Vietnamese person’s wardrobe for nearly 10 centuries until the busy pace of modern life set in.

A set of the traditional costume comprises a long gown with slits on either side, white trousers and a turban, usually in black or brown made of cotton or silk, and wooden clogs or shoes.

There were strict dressing codes in feudal times. Costumes in yellow were reserved for the King. Those in purple and red served high ranking court officials, while dresses in blue were exclusively worn by petty court officials.

After the August Revolution, when the country devoted all of its strengths to the national defense and construction, the traditional set of “ao dai” and “khan dong” has gradually lost its position.

However, during ceremonies such as Tet (Lunar New Year), festivals and weddings in rural areas, many elderly people still don the traditional costumes to fulfill their duties as heads of the families and villages.

Nowadays, in the trend of integration and economic development, the Vietnamese people’s daily wear is becoming more modern and suitable to life’s quick tempo.

However, the reappearance of the long gown and turban at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting showed that the traditional costume is still not forgotten.

(Source: VNA)



VIA (www.viaprograms. org ) is a non-profit, non-governmental international
education organization committed to growing minds through purposeful,
hands-on cross-cultural exchange.  Our Asia Program recruits, trains, and
places English teachers and English resource assistants in Indonesia, Laos,
Vietnam, China, and Myanmar.  Our Stanford Program brings groups of Asian
college students to the U.S. and other parts of Asia on provocative study
seminars.  VIA has 10 full-time staff, 3 in-country staff, 50+ volunteers in
the field, and 250 participants from Asia.

* *

The Vietnam In-Country Representative (“Representative”) is a unique
full-time field position in Hanoi, Vietnam.  The Representative has
responsibilities in three main areas: volunteer support, in-country program
management, and communication with the Home Office in the U.S.  Travel time
and work during evening and weekends is expected during orientation, tour of
posts, and annual meeting.  Duties include but are not limited to:

I) Volunteer Support/Coordinatio n

– Organize a summer orientation to ease volunteers’ cultural
– Provide support to the volunteers; assisting in the settling-in
process and acting as a troubleshooter in case problems arise that would
require an official VIA representative; maintain regular correspondence with
– Conduct a fall and spring tour of posts to evaluate the partnership
between VIA volunteers and host institutions.
– Organize and coordinate annual meeting for all volunteers and Home
Office staff.

II) Program Management

– Represent VIA in official business with the Ministry of Education
and Training, PACCOM, host institutions, Ford Foundation, NGOs, banks, and
other institutions.
– Maintain financial accounting of the field budget (manage field
budget, pay volunteer stipends, pay bills related to program expenses,
report to home office).
– Handle all necessary administrative paperwork and procedures, such
as contracts, Memos of Understanding (MOUs), permits, registrations, visas,
and reports.**
– Oversee summer undergraduate programs and summer program
– Respond to information requests about VIA.

III) Home Office Communication

– Communicate with Home Office on a frequent basis regarding field
– Work with the Program Director in the U.S. on program expansion by
researching new directions and examining potential new posts.
– Work with Home Office in responding to emergency situations and
conflict management.

*Qualifications: *

Demonstrated commitment to cross-cultural collaboration and international
education; international immersion experience, preferably in Vietnam and
through VIA; participatory leadership style; leadership and management
skills; computer skills; strong written/oral communication skills in
English; and strong interpersonal skills.  There is a preference for
candidates who can commit to at least two years.

*Terms of Employment:*

–          The Vietnam In-Country Representative is hired as a full-time (40
hr/week) position.

–          Wage is set at the monthly stipend of U.S. $1100 and housing
stipend of U.S. $350.

–          Basic medical and emergency evacuation insurance coverage

–          International flight to home country is provided including
economy airfare, airport taxes and transportation to and from Vietnamese

–          15 annual leave, 5 days Tet holiday, and all official Vietnamese

*Location: *Hanoi, Vietnam.  VIA does not have a formal Vietnam office.  The
Representative works from his/her home.**

* *

*Apply by:* October 20, 2006; Rolling deadline – applications will be
reviewed as received.

*Timeline*: October 1-31: Interviews at Home Office in San Francisco, CA,
USA or Hanoi, Vietnam.  Preferred start date is November 20, 2006.


Christine Tran

Vietnam Program Director

VIA (formerly Volunteers in Asia)

965 Mission Street, Suite 701

San Francisco, CA 94103

vietnam@viaprograms .org

Justin Hart

In-Country Representative

VIA (formerly Volunteers in Asia)

Hanoi International Post Office

I.P.O. Box 1

Hanoi, Vietnam



by Anh Thu

There’s a bug in the rice cooker: Director Lan (left) and Larry Berman (right) have dinner with Pham Xuan An’s colleagues and friends . — VNS Photo

During the making of a new documentary about one of Viet Nam’s most famous spies, director Le Phong Lan says she learned as much about world history as she did about the man’s controversial life.

General Pham Xuan An, who worked both as an intelligence agent for North Viet Nam during the American War and a reporter for the US media, is the subject of Lan’s 10-part documentary, expected to be screened early next year.

During filming, Lan unearthed facts, myths and figures that shed light on the personalities and silent contributions of both Communist Party members and the general, who died in September of emphysema at age 79.

Produced by HCM City’s Television Film Studio, the documentary, Mot Nguoi Viet Nam Huyen Thoai (A Legendary Vietnamese), covers Major General An’s life and revolutionary activities.

Post-production will be completed by the end of the year following two years of filming, Lan said.

“There were challenges in portraying An’s life, including his achievements as a secret agent during the American War,” says Lan, who spent two years writing the script.

Meeting a legend

Although she began her film in early 2004, Lan dreamed about making a film about An four years ago.

“I really wanted to do this because of my respect for General An, a brilliant political analyst, who, with his reporting skills, played a role in the victory over the Americans,” says Lan.

“I met him and asked if he could help me, but he didn’t want to do it,” she recalled.

Instead, he suggested that she shoot a film about other liberation heroes, saying that he was “nothing”.

Lan didn’t give up. She visited An’s home weekly, coaxing and cajoling, chatting and sharing stories with her idol in his house on Ly Chinh Thang Street in District 3, HCM City.

“Just like his soul, An never locked his house’s door,” Lan said. “I tried not only to understand An but also be a younger friend.”

After some years, An finally was won over by Lan’s perseverance.

Later, Lan and her cameraman Huynh Lam travelled the country to find and interview An’s colleagues and friends, particularly agents who worked for An’s spy network in Sai Gon, now HCM City, in the 1960s and 1970s.

She met Nguyen Thi Ba in Long An Province, a female agent who received An’s secret documents on the political and military activities of the US-backed Sai Gon administration, and sent the papers to the north.

“We have a deep respect for these people. Their contributions were great, but they live simply,” said Lan, adding that portraying the details about the characters’ lives was a difficult task.

During her research, she spoke with and interviewed many people, including political researchers like American university professor Larry Berman, one of An’s foreign friends.

Berman has written a biography, Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, which will be published in the spring.

“They gave us a lot of information about the war and historic events related to An,” said Lan, adding that the film’s quality and accuracy were due to the efforts of her colleagues.

A lengthy process

“A documentary is very different from a movie,” said Lan, a graduate of the Viet Nam Cinematography College who has spent eight years making documentaries.

A great deal of research about a still-controversial period of time was required, she said.

“Before making the documentary, I had little knowledge about war and politics,” Lan said. “I’ve tried to understand history and depict it realistically in my film.”

Although the amount of information on the war and its events was immense, Lan said the responsibility of making an accurate portrayal of such a complex man hung heavy on her shoulders.

She said she read many Vietnamese and foreign books, newspapers and documents related to historical events during the 1950s and the 1970s, particularly after the Americans came to Viet Nam.

“I also found it difficult to explain to audiences the reasons why An, a member of the Vietnamese Communist Party, was received enthusiastically by both Vietnamese and American sides,” she said.

“The most difficult thing in the beginning was how to contact and understand An, who often refused our interview requests.”

She said she learned a great deal about journalism from An, who was the first Vietnamese to be a full-time staff correspondent for a major US publication, working primarily for Time magazine.

The best interviews, Lan said, were those without a camera. “He hated having himself filmed. He was open and less shy when we were not working.”

Lan said she was still considering the title for the film. “I want it to carry the best meaning of the film,” she said.

In 1976, An was named Hero of the People’s Armed Forces by the Government, and awarded four military orders.

Death of a hero

An passed away on September 20 in HCM City’s Military Hospital 175 at the age of 79. Many people across the country and overseas paid their respects, and dozens of articles were written in the domestic and international press.

Lan was at his bedside when he died, as were his family members.

His death left her with a deep sense of regret and grief. “For me, he was like a great teacher, someone who loved and devoted his life to his country and people,” she said.

HCM City’s Television and Film Studio is expected to air the documentary early next year. “We hope audiences will enjoy it,” Lan said. — VNS

October 16, 2006

VIETNAMESE police and army officials said today they had arrested a fraudster who claimed to be using telepathic powers to locate the remains of soldiers missing in action since the Vietnam War.


Dang Xuan Ba, identified as a middle-aged man from southern Dalat city, was detained after he charged grieving relatives money for locating what he claimed were the remains of their loved ones. In reality, the remains were animal bones he had planted, they said.

“He confessed to us that he has no telepathic skills for locating the soldiers’ remains,” said a police officer in central Quang Tri province, the scene of heavy wartime fighting during the Vietnam War.

“He had taken at least 15 million dong ($1195) from some families.”

Many Vietnamese troops who fell in Vietnam’s anti-French conflict and what is called here the American War were quickly buried with medicine glass bottles containing pieces of paper with their names and hometowns.

Some 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers remain missing in action from the Vietnam War, and several people claiming to be acting as spiritual mediums have risen to national prominence by helping families locate the remains.

Ba was arrested after he planted bones and papers falsely identifying the remains of Nguyen Huu Dien, who died in battle in 1968, said Senior Lieutenant Colonel Do Xuan Hiep of the Quang Tri army command.

He took relatives to locations he had identified “using his so-called telepathic skills”, and then apparantly planted the bones and bottles so locals could dig them up, Hiep said by telephone.

“He was arrested carrying animal bones and six glass containers with papers carrying the names and hometowns of martyrs,” he said.

Police said they were now checking how many more families Ba had cheated.

Hi everybody,

My name is Christine Tran, a UC Berkeley alumni and current Vietnam program director at Volunteers in Asia (VIA).  I’m writing to let you know about volunteer opportunities in Vietnam through VIA.

If you’ve ever thought about spending an extended amount of time in Vietnam, contributing something meaningful while exploring your Vietnamese roots, a great way to do it would be through an organization like VIA.

VIA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting understanding between the U.S and Asia.  Our Vietnam program was established in 1990, making us one of the first American organizations to return to Vietnam after the war.  We have sent over 200 volunteers to Vietnam on summer and long-term (1-2 year) volunteer opportunities.

We currently work with mostly Vietnamese public universities and a handful of nonprofits and research institutions.

These are THREE types of volunteer opportunities we offer:

For those with a college degree and demonstrated interest in Vietnam or the Vietnamese-American community:
VIA offers two brand new fully-funded fellowships for exceptional college graduates who have a demonstrated and ongoing commitment to Vietnam or the Vietnamese-American community.  Fellows serve at one of our 11 long-term posts and design and implement a community service project over one year.  This fellowship is funded by the Ford Foundation.

For those with a college degree:  VIA has one- and two-year long volunteer opportunities teaching English in Vietnam.  You may teach at institutions like the University of Hue, University of Dalat, University of Danang, University of An Giang, University of Fisheries, Nha Trang, or Hanoi University of Foreign Studies.

For continuing undergraduates or recent graduates: VIA has a 7-week long summer program called Teach-in-Hue.  This program is wildly popular among US participants and Vietnamese university students in Hue.  Volunteers teach American Culture at the University of Hue to first- and second-year English majors and gifted high school students.

If you’re interested, please take a look at our website first and then feel free to give me a call or send an email.  Our application deadline is Feb. 22, 2007 and volunteers leave between mid-June and mid-July each year.

There is a participation fee (except for fellowships) which only covers a fraction of what it costs VIA to send volunteers to Vietnam.  The fee covers all or partial airfare, housing, stipend, training, visa, insurance, orientation, etc.  We’re supported generously by former volunteers and foundations.  Financial assistance is also provided and funded by former volunteers.

If you’ve ever thought about living and volunteering in Vietnam, take a look at our website to learn more about our program and what the benefits are of going with an organization.

Check it out: www.viaprograms. org

Thanks for reading!
Christine Tran
Vietnam Program Director

We’ve moved!  Our new contact information is:

965 Mission Street, Suite 751
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415.904.8033
www.viaprograms. org