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Long Nguyen is a former South Vietnamese Army officer who endures torture in a re-education camp.





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Published: March 22, 2007

Dying is easy, comedy is hard, and melodrama is almost impossible. The writer-director Ham Tran achieves the impossible in “Journey From the Fall,” a sprawling tearjerker about a war-splintered South Vietnamese family trying to survive the aftermath of the American withdrawal and then seek a new life in the United States.

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Set amid the chaos of late-’70s Vietnam, when the victorious North set about “re-educating” the defeated South, the film depicts one family’s endurance in sturdy, old-movie style, with sweeping camerawork, a monumental and occasionally intrusive orchestral score, gorgeous yet forbidding natural vistas and enough shocking tragedies, brazen escapes and crowd-pleasing acts of defiance to fuel several action-adventure pictures.

Its first half cuts between the plight of a former South Vietnamese Army officer, Long Nguyen (Long Nguyen), a die-hard partisan who endures imprisonment and torture in a re-education camp, and that of his mother (Kieu Chinh), wife (Diem Lien) and son (Nguyen Thai Nguyen), who are trying to flee the country via slums, jungles and swamps.

The relatives’ story line climaxes with a boat journey that shows refugees packed into a cargo hold like cordwood, enduring illness, claustrophobia and starvation. Its visceral portrait of suffering and perseverance matches the Middle Passage sequence in “Amistad.” Its horror resonates through the family’s eventual relocation to California, where they are confronted with diluted versions of the same problems they faced in Vietnam: deprivation, discrimination and a hostile dominant culture that pushes them to assimilate.

While Mr. Tran’s narrative is outlined in broad strokes, it is filled in with delicate brushwork. The script, which draws on survivor stories and the director’s own experiences as the child of boat people, compiles details that most Americans have never seen on screen: a newly arrived Vietnamese-American woman repudiating her ethnic identity, the better to forget past traumas; a knowingly absurd debate among prison camp inmates about the tastiest way to cook crickets.

The film echoes Michael Cimino‘s “Deer Hunter,” which followed American steel mill workers to Vietnam and back. At certain points (particularly the prison camp sequences, the film’s many improbable reunions and the recurring device of characters bonding over a pop song), “Journey From the Fall” seems to answer Mr. Cimino’s movie across the decades — not to rebuke it, but to remind the world that the extras Robert De Niro passed in the Saigon streets while searching for Christopher Walken lived, loved and suffered too, and that their stories deserve to be told.

“Journey From the Fall” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It includes intense physical and psychological violence.


Opens today in New York and in Orange County and San Jose, Calif.

Written (in Vietnamese and English, with English subtitles) and directed by Ham Tran; directors of photography, Guillermo Rosas and Julie Kirkwood; music by Christopher Wong; production designers, Mona Nahm and Tommy Twoson; produced by Lam Nguyen; released by ImaginAsian Pictures. In Manhattan at the ImaginAsian Theater, 239 East 59th Street. Running time: 135 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Kieu Chinh (Ba Noi), Long Nguyen (Long Nguyen), Diem Lien (Mai Nguyen), Nguyen Thai Nguyen (Lai Nguyen), Jayvee Mai The Hiep (Thanh), Khanh Doan (Captain Nam) and Cat Ly (Phuong).

07:42′ 23/03/2007 (GMT+7)
VietNamNet Bridge – A programme titled The First Vietnamese Cinema Days will be organised in Poland by the Arteria Fund and the French Embassy in Poland.

Soạn: HA 1063978 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
A scene from ‘Thuong nho dong que’

The Arteria Fund hopes that its project will give Polish audiences a chance to discover Vietnamese culture through Vietnamese cinema which is getting heard around the world.

The 5 flavours of Vietnamese cinema are described as follows:

1. The strange flavour: Wonderful sceneries of the tropical monsoon climate; a language full of songs; warm though humid weather, and lovely faces not easy to find in the cinema of any other country.

2. The historical flavour: 3 days of screening Vietnamese films aren’t enough to tell all the stories about Vietnam’s painful history but are enough to touch audiences’ hearts.

3. The dialogue flavour: Cinema stimulates dialogue. Conversations during the time of screening will bring out many valuable ideas and opinions.

4. The discovery flavour: The Vietnamese community is one of the largest foreign communities in Poland, but Vietnamese culture isn’t well known. Many things thus await discovery.

5. The starter flavour: There is nothing more interesting than watching a movie which no one in Poland has watched, and which perhaps won’t soon be screened again.

The items screened over the 3 days by the Arteria Fund include 5 cartoons, 6 short films, and 7 movies. The 7 movies, which are about different periods of time in Vietnam, are Luu Trong Ninh’s Nga ba Dong Loc (Dong Loc Three-way Crossroads; Dang Nhat Minh’s Thuong nho dong que (Missing the Countryside); Tran Anh Hung’s Mui du du xanh (The Scent of Green Papaya); Ham Tran’s Vuot song (Riding Waves); Viet Linh’s Thoi vang bong (Golden Years); Vu Ngoc Dang’s Nhung co gai chan dai (Long-legged Girls), and Bui Thac Chuyen’s Song trong so hai (Live in Fear).

Films will be screened from March 30 to April 1 at Muranow Theatre in Warsaw. Guests include Vietnamese director Viet Linh.



James Rhodes, an American war veteran who was affected by Agent Orange/Dioxin during the US-led war in Vietnam, has found peace of mind each time he has returned to Vietnam.

The American veteran, who is now disabled as consequence of his exposure to the toxic chemical sprayed by the US military over Vietnam during the war, has made frequent trips to Vietnam for medical treatment.

“In violation of the US Embargo against Vietnam, I made the first of many trips back to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in 1990 for medical treatment,” he said.

During the first trip, Rhodes met a couple of elderly Vietnamese rice farmers, who had walked by his room in the hospital where he was undergoing medical treatment.

The old couple, who had nine of their children killed by the US military, expressed their sadness that Rhodes was ill and offered their services if they could do anything for him. They also expressed their utmost compassion and forgiveness.

“This is a perfect example of the nature found in Vietnamese people,” Rhodes said.

The US veteran also said that all of his Vietnamese doctors had treated him with the utmost professionalism, courtesy, and respect. He has received expert medical services and treatments and has rarely paid over US $50 per day for them.

“Morever I will never forget that it is the American Government, and the Veterans Administration, that to date refuses to admit or acknowledge my exposure, and related problems, to herbicidal poisons,” he stressed.

”If Vietnam would let me, I would remain in here,” Rhodes concluded. (VNA)


Wed Mar 21, 2007 5:53 PM IST17

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HANOI (Reuters) – American movie star Angelina Jolie left Hanoi on Wednesday with her newly-adopted Vietnamese son after a week of avoiding the lenses of photographers and TV crews.

Reuters photographers saw a private jet leave Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport carrying the Hollywood star, children and assistants. Earlier, the group checked out of the historic French-colonial era Metropole Hotel.

Jolie, 31, finalised the adoption of a Vietnamese orphan on Tuesday at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, according to the U.S.-based adoption agency that helped her.

The Oscar-winning actress arrived in southern Ho Chi Minh City a week ago, staying largely out of public view in hotels.

The boy’s birth name is Pham Quang Sang but Jolie renamed him Pax Thien Jolie, a name that combines the Latin word for peace and the Vietnamese word for sky or heaven.

He is her fourth child she is raising with her partner, Hollywood star Brad Pitt.

The 3-1/2 year old had lived in a Ho Chi Minh City orphanage since being abandoned at birth until last Thursday when Jolie completed adoption procedures with Vietnamese authorities there.

She travelled to Hanoi on Monday for the obligatory U.S. embassy appointment and collection of a visa so the child could travel to the United States, the adoption agency said.

Jolie travelled to Vietnam with her 5-year-old son Maddox, who was adopted from Cambodia, and 2-year-old daughter Zahara, adopted from Ethiopia. She gave birth last year in Namibia to her first biological child, a daughter fathered by Pitt named Shiloh.


March 23, 2007

‘Journey From the Fall’ tracks the terrible migration of Vietnamese boat people

By Richard von Busack
THE EXODUS of Vietnamese immigrants to America is still in living memory, and yet it’s not commonly memorialized. As seen in the San Francisco Asian American Film Festival documentary Bolinao 52, few survivors are willing to give firsthand reminiscences of what happened to them in the camps and the refugee boats. But these immigrants are starting to have grandchildren, and that means the truth will be told, bit by bit. As Freud said, the grandchild wishes to remember what the grandfather wishes to forget. The independent film Journey From the Fall is very much a work of art with a job to do; it does the job so diligently that it is hardly worth pointing out the limits of the technique. Producer Long Nguyen and director/writer Ham Tran financed their epic from donations from Vietnamese-American businessmen, some of who used pseudonyms to protect their current business interests in Vietnam.



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In 135 minutes, Tran outlines the Nguyen family’s ordeal, beginning on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon: “The Americans have broken their promise. They have left us,” says father Long (played by the actor and artist Long Nguyen); he stays behind even as he orders his family to leave. The moment of fissure is wrapped around with an Arthurian folk tale about the history of Vietnam. (“If history is written by the victors, than folklore is the testimony of the vanquished” says Tran in the press notes.)

The first half reflects the jagged memory of a political prisoner taken from one re-education camp to another, beaten, worked half to death and starved. In their camps, the Communists use crucifixion and sweat boxes, torture and lectures. In one lecture, we even hear the “Arbeit macht frei” motto the prisoners need to learn: “Nothing is more precious than freedom.” The Communist tyrants who run the camp are about as flat as the Nazis in wartime propaganda movies. There’s only one articulate officer, and education has just made him more sadistic: he smokes opium and quotes the dire Romanian/French philosopher Emile Cioran. (Wikipedia quotes one of Cioran’s wittier lines: “Without Bach, God would be a completely second-rate figure.”) In the second half, the action unfolds in 1981 Orange Country, where we see the problems of Lai (Nguyen Thai Nguyen) growing up without his father, with a mother still distant and traumatized from being the victim of pirates at sea.

Journey From the Fall is but the first rough-hewn look at a subject that needs more examination. As Vietnam opens itself up to tourism and foreign capital, it owes the world an accounting of its labor camps. And let’s hope that any investigation of the Communist crimes won’t give the David Horowitzes of the world something to preen about. In my particular little ghetto, the neighborhood is divided up nicely between Laotians, who fled the Communists, and Salvadorans, who were chased from their nation by right-wing death squads. “Some world,” as Humphrey Bogart once said. “Looks like it was shaved by a drunken barber.”
Movie Times Journey From the Fall (R; 135 min.), directed and written by Ham Tran and photographed by Julie Kirkwood and Guillermo Rosas, opens March 23 at Camera 12 in San Jose.

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A young begger with his eyes and right arm missing was the victim of an leftover bomb from the war that exploded near him.

 A D V E R T I S E M E N T 

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Rick Gunn
March 22, 2007

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Editor’s note: This is one in a series of journal entries from Rick Gunn, a South Lake Tahoe photographer, detailing his two-year bicycle journey around the world. Along the way, he is soliciting donations for The Make-A-Wish Foundation. To donate, go to To read his complete “Wish Tour” journal, go to

Nha Trang was a city big on concrete, and short on character. It’s only draw being the diving and snorkeling around its nearby islands.

I slipped 12,000 Dong – roughly $8 – into the hands of a sleazy tour operator, before I hopped aboard an impossibly overcrowded boat. There I took a seat, elbow-to-elbow with nearly a hundred Asian tourists.

“Welcome to your new lives as sea slaves!” the captain seemed to shout in Vietnamese as we departed. “You’ll be whipped and deprived of gruel if you fall short on your paddling,” he seemed to say. When he finally switched to English, I realized he’d been shouting the safety rules. This was a joke.

And as we moved farther and farther out to sea, I began to take notice of the boat’s intricate failings. Not only was it filled well beyond its capacity, but each nautical detail seemed to tell its own tragic story of neglect and disrepair.

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The Vietnam War Remnants Museum displays the horrors of the war.

By the time we reached open ocean, and I’d finished planning my swimming routes back to shore, a singular phrase began repeating within my mind. That phrase was “CNN Headline.”

Remarkably, the boat reached our destination, and we set anchor just-off a small rocky island. When we did, I stood for a moment and drooled over the edge into the cerulean-blue waters.

“You’ve got one hour to snorkel at this stop!” the slave-master bellowed. And with that, I grabbed my gear, raced to the roof, stripped to my suit, and plunged in.

Penetrating the surface with a boom, I arced gracefully through this quiet new world of crystal blue. Water had always been a place I’d called home. And let me state rather clearly, that despite what a handful of religious descendants of monkeys cared to believe, it was this monkey’s belief that he originated from the sea. And should I sprout gills tomorrow, I would happily return to it – never to set-foot on dry land again. I snorkeled for hours that afternoon, descending deep beneath the surface, then dove and dove again.

After I’d coaxed my lungs to relax, I began to dive deep. As deep as my breath would take me – 10, 20, 30 – then eventually 40 feet beneath these warm welcoming waters. All the while, shimmering ringlets of light danced atop the coral, illuminating a burst of multicolored fish.

Nha Trang’s reefs are home to approximately 398 species of hard and soft coral, as well as rare species of frogfish, paperfish, devil scorpionfish, dragonettes, flying gunard, cowfish, nudibranches and giant morays, manta rays, large stingrays and some shy turtles – making it one of the richest hard coral dive sites in the world.

But this afternoon, I was happy to just hover over ethereal lumps of brain coral and observe a handful of Clown and Angel fish as they darted electrically before my eyes.

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Dead soldiers shown here at the Vietnam War Remnants Museum were victims of agent orange, a flammable defoliant used in the jungles. (Photos by Rick Gunn / Special to the Tahoe Daily Tribune)

It was only later I’d discover what trouble this underwater paradise was in.

According to a recent report by the World Conservation Union, Vietnam’s coastal and marine resources “have been severely degraded and overexploited due to dynamite and cyanide fishing practices, in addition to being harvested for aquarium fish in an unsustainable fashion.”

The report also stated that Nha Trang’s reefs were declining due to a “substantial increase in tourism over the last 10 years: up to 300,000 visitors a year. This led to “inappropriate anchoring, and the uncontrollable consequences of scuba and snorkeling practices, as well as general waste discharge in and around coral reefs.”

Should this not have been enough, there was something else killing large swaths of coral. Some invisible force, that had baffled marine scientists for years.

Then, in 2002, after a study of Vietnam’s habitat of Scleractinian Corals, the Russian Journal of Marine Biology named a culprit.

The study concluded that, “Samplings of bottom sediments and biological objects suggest that the spectrum and distribution pattern of persistent congeners of PCDD/Fs (dioxins) in bottom sediments are similar to those of the defoliant Agent Orange chemicals used as defoliants during the AmericanÐVietnamese war.

It had been 30 years since the end of combat in Vietnam. Ironically, the conflict still continued to kill. This time it was the coral reefs just below the sea.

My last day in Nha Trang brought a foot tour of the city. Late in the day I visited the impressive Long Son Pagoda, a Buddhist Monastery near the center of town. I was ambling up a large set of stairs to get a glimpse of an immense lying Buddha, when I came upon a horrendous sight. It was a young beggar boy, with a face pulled straight from a horror film. His eyes were missing and his right arm was gone just below the elbow. “No,” I said, recognizing the source of his injuries.

“It was a unexploded bomb,” a Vietnamese tour guard verified as she walked by. The boy was another victim of one of the 800,000 UXOs (unexploded ordinance) leftover in the countryside from the war. The boy was the worst bomb victim I’d see in Vietnam.

Three days after I’d cycled out of Nha Trang, I reached the southern city of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Rolling into its center, it seemed a unique confluence of ancient and modern economies where Capitalism met Communism. Huge glass-faced store-fronts boasted Gucci, Versace, and Louis Vuitton. Beneath them were the poorest of poor peasants pedaling soup, coconuts, hats and rice. Businessmen drove BMWs, and beggars wore rags.

Before I pedaled out of Vietnam, I had one more place to visit. This was the Vietnam War Remnants Museum. It was a place where the Vietnamese Government told their side of what they called “The Great War For Liberation.” Within its crowded walls were a flood of disorganized and poorly translated stories, timelines, diagrams and photographs. Despite its inadequacies, I was engulfed for over an hour. In that hour, I gazed upon photos of dead and dying soldiers, victims of Napalm, as well as displays of Vietnamese children that suffered from genetic abnormalities, after their parents had been exposed to the defoliant “Agent Orange.”

I was moving along slowly, and handling it all pretty well, until I came upon a solitary photo that stopped me in my tracks. It was a photo that tore at my soul. It was a poorly printed black and white photo of a pile of children who’d been killed by American forces during the war. As I stood and stared, a voice came from over my shoulder.

“We did not bomb civilian targets,” the American man behind me said as he noticed the picture. His statement seemed conflicted, his voice stretched, as if squirming beneath some unacceptable truth. I turned with a burning gaze, and pushed-down the anger that welled from inside.

As I did, I became acutely aware of people told themselves, and to what depths of denial they had to descend into to justify these acts of war. This seemed to send me straight into a funk. The truth was, I was growing weary.

Weary of this journey. Weary of this constant movement. Weary of the isolation, the loneliness, and this life as a perennial stranger. Moreover, I’d grown weary of this constant witnessing.

The witnessing of poverty, pollution, and large-scale environmental degradation. Most of all, I’d grown weary of witnessing the results of armed conflict, as well as the ideological intolerance, and collective fear that fueled a seemingly endless list of cruelties that one man could inflict upon another in the name of war.

I’d reached the saturation point. All of it seemed to send me inwards: to my own delusions, my own fears, and my own pain. The pain of witnessing another type of war. One I’d witnessed when I was young.

It was the war I’d watched between my parents at the end of their a 17-year marriage. This memory surfaced again and again when things went wrong.

Mostly because it signaled a turning point in my life. A time that marked the end of my childhood, and a tectonic shift in my fledgling sense of well being.

It also marked the beginning of a new struggle: to heal, to re-build, and to re-learn what it was to create healthy relationships. A process that will end, as I take my last breath.

I left the war museum that afternoon carrying too much of this within my mind. I made my way across town into an Internet shop. There I sent out an electronic S.O.S. to my safety-net of friends, family, and loved ones.

What came next was a virtual flood of kindness and support from around the world. One of the most poignant messages came from my good friend, and fellow photographer Lisa Tolda.

She wrote:

“You … are living life my friend. We all have highs, lows, love and despair, but you are living and feeling it all.

“You are making a difference. You are inspiring others. You inspire me. Fly Rick. Fly and be free … At the end of your life you will know that you did the right thing by undertaking this enormous and difficult trip. Soar. Love, Lisa J.”

– To read previous articles by Rick Gunn, go to

Madison Nguyen - San Jose City CouncilMadison Nguyen





ImageThuy Vu

(CBS 5) SAN JOSE San Jose City Councilwoman Madison Nguyen easily switches from English, to Vietnamese. She is San Jose’s first Vietnamese-American city council member.

Her victory was fueled heavily by money and support from the Vietnamese community.

“We’re here because we have worked hard and we want not just a seat at the table, but perhaps we want to lead the table,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen, her parents and 9 siblings fled Vietnam 28 years ago when she was 4.

They eventually settled in Modesto. Nguyen and her family harvested fruit, withstanding hard labor and the discrimination that farm owners unleashed on her father.

“And because he didn’t understand English, they would yell at him and they would curse at him,” Nguyen remembered. “I understood it all that because I understand English.”

It’s an immigrant’s tale in a community built by immigrants.

San Jose has the largest Vietnamese American community in the nation. Many have turned hard work into financial success. They have their own shopping centers now, for example. And they’re looking to turn financial clout into political clout.

“The time is right. The population has grown. People’s sophistication of learning the American way, understanding politics has increased dramatically,” said Michael Chang of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute.

Vietnamese Americans make up an estimated 10 percent of San Jose’s voters.

And now, a second Vietnamese-American is running for office.

Hon Lien is in a runoff this June against Kansen Chu in San Jose. Like Madison Nguyen, she’s an immigrant.

“This country is a free country, and that opens up the opportunity for everybody,” Lien said.

It’s also an unprecedented opportunity to push issues important to the Vietnamese community.

Nguyen wants to have a part of east San Jose named Vietnam Town, but acknowledges other ethnic groups may feel excluded.

“It’s not about segregation, it’s about inclusiveness and the importance of preserving our culture,” Nguyen said.

And preserving the interests of the community that propelled her to office.

(© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)