Saturday,  May 26, 2007 3:24 AM


The wooden boats were designed to haul little more than fruit along the rivers of Vietnam.But more than a million South Vietnamese, fearful after Saigon fell to communist forces in 1975, became the cargo, risking death on the South China Sea.

The vessels, maybe 6 feet wide and as long as 40 feet, were a salvation for those who made it to a friendly shore and a deathtrap for those who fell victim to storms or pirates.

Visitors to the Asian Festival today at Franklin Park will get to see one such vessel used by a group of “boat people.”

“Freedom is what we were searching for when we left Vietnam 24 years ago,” said Trang Nguyen of Lewis Center. She was 14 years old when she escaped in one of the slender boats. “It almost cost us our lives. I want to share that story with people so they realize and appreciate what they have.”

The boat on display today at the festival is being exhibited across the United States. Paying for the tour are Vietnamese-Americans like Nguyen and Loc Tran who want other Americans, and especially their children, to see.

The boat was on display yesterday outside Tran’s Ocean Seafood restaurant, 2225 Morse Rd.

Madalenna Lai is president of the Vietnamese Cultural House in California, which is helping to sponsor the tour. In the past five years it has traveled to 40 states.

Lai, 64, made the crossing in 1975 with her four children and her sister and her five children. Lai was reunited with her husband after he spent 10 years in a communist prison. She carries dozens of pictures and recounts the stories of those who survived.

Outside Tran’s restaurant, Vietnamese refugees who became Ohioans gathered to share stories in their native tongue.

The boat on display was found abandoned in Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines.

The sides and bottom of the 35-foot boat are spotted with holes. Planks affixed crossways served as seats.

It is a smaller version of the boat Nguyen and her 17-year-old sister used to escape Vietnam in 1983. Their parents used their life savings to send their daughters for a better life. As they neared the moored boat, police spotted them. Some men accompanying them fought the officers as the women ran for the boat. Most of the men made it to the boat as the officers opened fire, she said.

Thirty-six people made it on board.

After less than 48 hours at sea, the boat’s small motor failed. They drifted for eight days and consumed all the food and water, which was rationed to less than a half cup three times a day. A U.S. helicopter spotted them and notified a merchant ship to pick them up.

As difficult as Nguyen’s experience was, Tran endured worse. Nearly 100 people were squeezed into the boat he was in.

There was so little room, no one could lie down to sleep during the seven days it took to reach Thailand. Water was limited to a half cup a day.

Their boat was attacked twice by pirates. Tran said he had to swallow a slender gold ring, his only possession other than the clothes he was wearing.

Another man on board was assaulted when the pirates found he had tried to hide something gold in his mouth.

Tran’s parents had borrowed $1,000 for his passage. It would have taken Tran more than three years to earn that much taxiing people around Saigon on a bicycle, he said.

Tran and Nguyen say they know they are the lucky ones.

And both say they plan to make sure their children realize it.

“Freedom is what we were searching for when we left Vietnam 24 years ago. It almost cost us our lives.”

Trang Nguyen
Vietnamese refugee


Locked eyes: The very first exhibition at Maison des Arts featuring 18 Ha Noi artists is intended to give visitors an overview of contemporary Vietnamese art. — VNS Photo Truong Vi

HA NOI — A new exhibition gives visitors an overview of contemporary Vietnamese art through paintings and sculptures by 15 painters and three sculptors from Ha Noi.

Nearly 50 paintings and 10 sculptures on show at the first exhibition to be hosted by the Maison des Arts in Ha Noi reflect a variety of contemporary artistic movements including abstract, expressionism, impressionism, and hyper-realism.

Sculptures on display include Canh Chim Do (Red Birdwing) by Luong Van Viet, inspired by the need to protect the environment and wildlife, and Dong Chay Ngam (Hidden Current) by Khong Do Tuyen, calling on people to live healthier lives.

“I can see common things in different works by the artists at the show,” said Nguyen Nga, owner of the newly opened Maison des Arts. “They reflect the image of a peaceful country: Viet Nam. The young painters have begun to look for their own world while moving towards a more integrated world.”

Nga said she hoped the exhibition would help visitors learn more about Vietnamese contemporary art and help the young artists become better known nationwide.

Nga, 50, left Viet Nam at a young age and has lived in France for years. By opening the Maison des Arts, she said she wished to bridge the cultures of the two countries.

The exhibition runs until July 30 at Maison des Arts, located at 31A Van Mieu Street in Ha Noi. — VNS

16:32′ 21/05/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Love triangles, ghosts, hair-raising action scenes, betrayal and -loss are just some of the themes of Vietnam’s first summer movie season. Vietnamese movie-makers are rolling out their best work – with many films expected to become blockbusters.

An advertising boarding depicts films scheduled to appear at the National Cinema Centre this summer.
An advertising boarding depicts films scheduled to appear at the National Cinema Centre this summer.

At the forefront of Vietnamese film-making, Giai Phong Film Studio has brought out Gia Mua Mot Thuong De (The Cost of a God) and Vu Dieu Tu Than (The Deadly Dance) – both partly sponsored by the Government.

The films tackle social issues, such as drugs and vice. The Cost of a God is a humorous story of a woman’s struggle to protect the Ben Tre Coconut Candy brand name from being stolen.

The film stars many celebrated Vietnamese actors such as Viet Trinh and Minh Tiep, and was first screened last weekend.

Deadly Dance is a tale of dancing-girls and drugs and will be screened at the end of next month.

Private studios are also bringing out a number of major film this summer. Chanh Phuong Film Studio has just finished making the two-episode 45-minute horror movies Ngoi Nha Bi An (The Mysterious House) and Suoi Oan Hon (Haunted River) – both sure to make your hair stand on end.

The studio’s productions are influenced by British film director Alfred Hitchcock, a pioneering figure in the thriller genre. The two films will be screened towards the end of next month.

Last but not least, Muoi (Ten), the first joint-production by Vietnam’s Phuoc Sang Film studio and Billy Pictures from South Korea. The film depicts the life of a South Korean female writer who comes to Vietnam.

While in Vietnam she hears of a poltergeist- a broken-hearted woman – who haunts the home of her former boyfriend. She nightly rips up newspapers, moves pictures and drips blood.

With investment climbing, to around US$3mil, the filmmakers, promise the horror flick will keep audiences glued to their seats. Muoi will hit screens at the end of the summer movie season on July 7.

Dong Mau Anh Hung (The Rebel), which was released last April, is set in the early 20th Century during the Vietnamese struggle against invading French forces.

The film, acclaimed for its magnificent action scenes, was an instant hit with Vietnamese audiences – in the first two weeks of screening, the film was watched by more than 50,000 moviegoers.

Sai Gon Eclipse is also set in the past. Adapted from the Vietnamese literary: masterpiece Nguyen Du’s Kieu Tale, the film was directed by Othello Khanh, who lives in France, and stars Truong Ngoc Anh and Nhu Quynh. The movie opened in theatres last Tuesday.

11:43′ 21/05/2007 (GMT+7)

A scene of “flower” girls in Saigon Eclipse

VietNamNet Bridge – With an international cast and a theme about women’s hard lives, award-winning Saigon Eclipse, which opened in theatres last Friday, disappointed Vietnamese critics with its lack of understanding of Vietnamese culture.

A series of articles have been appearing in Vietnamese newspapers attacking the quality of Saigon Eclipse, which was co-produced by Film Studio 1 and Canadian producer John Board, directed by Vietnamese-French director Othello Khanh and has recently taken part in the Asian Pacific Film Festival, as well as won the jury’s special prize at the Worldfest Houston International Film Festival.

Most critics consider the image of Vietnamese women in the movie uncharacteristic, unrealistic and disparaging. For instance, the leading character, a countryside girl, meets a stranger and agrees to be his lover in order to achieve her dream of living a better life in the US.

A southern old woman meets this same man for the first time and instantly offers to sell her granddaughter to him. Girls voluntarily line up to sell themselves, and prostitutes shamelessly pester foreign men with emails asking for money.

Though film critics applaud Othello Khanh’s effort to make a movie to protest against transnational woman trafficking, they think Saigon Solar Eclipse doesn’t reflect a good grasp of Vietnamese life and people, but merely a film about a Vietnam seen through the eyes of a foreigner.

Other details such as the overuse of English in the dialogues of Vietnamese characters also nettle them. Nguyen Thi Hong Ngat, Chairman of the Saigon Eclipse Censorship Board, also joins in the criticism.

“I personally don’t like this movie. The film was written and directed by overseas Vietnamese so it seems to take place somewhere else rather than in Vietnam. For instance, Kieu’s mother’s human sales are unrealistic.”

“Kieu’s love story isn’t similar to the love between Thuy Kieu and Kim Trong in the Tale of Kieu. Mafia bosses happily sit chatting with each other. Policemen freely reveal their identity, not to mention the fact that actors speak annoyingly imperfect Vietnamese.”

“I think the director’s intention is good since he wants to protest the selling of women. Yet, the film supposedly about Vietnam was made without a deep understanding of Vietnamese culture and the interpersonal relationships in the life of the Vietnamese.”

15:36′ 21/05/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Public Security have proposed the Prime Minister to issue the Regulation on visa exemption for overseas Vietnamese who have foreign passports.


Accordingly, overseas Vietnamese who return to Vietnam within 90 days will be exempted from visa if they meet the following conditions: Having foreign passports or alternative papers which are valid in at least six months, valid return tickets or the tickets to go to the third country, and visa exemption verification document.


Foreigners who are the husband, wife and children of overseas Vietnamese regulation who meet the above conditions are also exempted from visas to Vietnam.


The Ministry of Public Security is compiling a guiding document to simplify formalities and shorten the procedures on repatriation of overseas Vietnamese.


The ministry will modify some regulations on immigration and residence of foreigners in Vietnam, including the expansion of visa granting at border gates for foreigners in general and grant five-year visas for investors.


Lee Byung-hun

By Seo Dong-shin
Staff Reporter

Actor Lee Byung-hun will likely play a Hong Kong gang leader involved in crime and drug businesses in an upcoming film by a renowned Vietnamese-French director.

Yonhap News Agency reported from Cannes, France that the 37-year-old actor will star in “I Come With the Rain,” a film scheduled for 2008 by director Tran Anh Hung.

Tran’s previous works include “The Scent of Green Papaya” and “Cyclo” among others. The upcoming $18 million-budget movie will become the first English-language film by the director.

The film stars Josh Harnett, of “Black Hawk Down” and “Pearl Harbor” fame. The American actor will play the lead role of a former Los Angeles cop who comes to Hong Kong on a mission to find a missing son of a high-ranking Chinese businessman.

Lee’s role, a gang leader called Su Dongpo, will support the plot along with the role of Meng Zi, a Hong Kong cop and a long-time friend of the American.

The film is expected to be Lee’s debut on the world stage. Lee is currently filming “The Good, the Bad and the Weird” by director Kim Ji-woon, and is reviewing the proposal for the role in Tran’s film, sources close to him were quoted as saying by the local media. reported that the film will feature music from Gustavo Santaolalla, who composed the music for “Brokeback Mountain.” The film shoot will last 10 weeks in Los Angeles, the Philippines and Hong Kong from July 9, and will premiere in the United States, Canada and France, according to the report.



Vietnam’s film industry was still in need of more professional talent, modern technology and support from the Government, film directors said.

Speaking at Vietnamese Films Week, launched by the Institute of Vietnam and France Cultural Exchanges in Ho Chi Minh City on May 17, veteran local director Viet Linh called on the Government and cinema authorities to give more support to the industry.

“Without more financial investment and new policies on film-making, distribution and marketing, our quality films, including award-winning productions, will continue to find it difficult to be screened and make profits,” Linh said.

She said that although the country’s film industry has developed rapidly in recent years, authorities should create stronger regulations that define preferential rights for marketing and screening Vietnamese movies at cinemas.

Linh said the film industries of France and the Republic of Korea had achieved good results because “their government enacted policies to compel cinemas to show more local films instead of only foreign ones.”

Linh’s critically acclaimed films Me Thao Thoi Vang Bong (Glorious Time in Me Thao Village) and Chung Cu (The Tenement House) were serious dramas that won several prizes at local and international film festivals.

In France, Me Thao Thoi Vang Bong, completed in 2002, was shown in cinemas for 12 weeks while Chung Cu is 1999 was released for 14 weeks.

In Vietnam, both films were only shown in cinemas in the major cities of Hanoi and HCM City for only a week. The films were released with little marketing support.

“As a result, many Vietnamese only know about our films through newspapers and magazines,” said Linh, adding that this way of doing business had created an unfair environment for local film makers, particularly those who often produce serious films with an educational goal instead of purely commercial and entertainment driven features.

Overseas Vietnamese director Nguyen Vo Nghiem Minh said he agreed with Linh, and called on cinema owners to give more help to local directors of serious films.

“Working in the movie business requires a different business approach to that of other fields,” said the Vietnamese-American director. “The great value of a film is not only making profits but also introducing aspects of culture.”

Minh’s first film, Mua Len Trau (Buffalo Boy), was produced in 2004 by the HCM City-based film company Giai Phong (Liberation) and its French and Belgian partners.

The film portrays the lives and work of local farmers living in Dong Thap province. It was screened in many countries, including France, Germany and Canada, but it had not been widely screened in Vietnam.

“Many quality films have failed to lure audiences or make profits because they are released in an unprofessional way,” he said.

Linh and Minh also urged cinema authorities to invest more in human resources training in the film sectors as well as in upgrading technology. (VNA)

23:18′ 22/04/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Len Aldis, Secretary of the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society (BVFS), called at the Cambridge University on April 19 to rally support for Vietnamese Agent Orange (AO) victims in their lawsuit against US defoliant producers.

The Briton man provided students with stories of physical and mental pains suffered day by day by Vietnamese AO victims who he have met during his visits to the country.

He said that more than 30 years after the war in Vietnam, the herbicides sprayed by the US Army have left severe consequences on three successive generations of Vietnamese people. However, they have not yet received any compensation from the US.

Len Aldis added that the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA), in January 2004, filed a lawsuit against more than 30 US chemical companies which had produced herbicides for the US Army during the war in Vietnam. The US courts had rejected their petitions, but in the meantime, asked the chemical companies to pay compensations for American veterans during the Vietnam War.

Aldis affirmed that this was actually an unjust action; therefore, people worldwide should continue to support Vietnamese AO victims in the fight for justice.

The conversation was part of a campaign, which was held by the BVFS at universities throughout Britain, to support Vietnamese AO victims. Len Aldis plans to hold more conversations at the universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Manchester.

(Source: VNA)

12:11′ 24/04/2007 (GMT+7)


VietNamNet Bridge – Sixty-six girls at the age of 18-20 from poor rural areas in southern provinces gathered at a house in HCM City for an inspection by Korean grooms.


HCM City police on April 23 caught two Korean people red-handed, including two men and one woman who were ‘seeing 66 prospective brides’ at a house in Ward 4, District 10, HCM City.


The house’s owner, Thang Ngai Linh, age 45, 66 girls, three Korean men and another woman named Thi Vinh Khuong, 41, had to come to the local police station for investigation.


Linh and Khuong declared that they organized the ‘meeting’ for these Korean men and 66 girls, who had to pay fees to those illegal matchmakers.


At the house, the girls had to be nude for ‘body inspection’ by the Koreans, hoping to be chosen as brides.


Previously HCM City police discovered a similar case. However, as illegal matchmakers were fined only, this illegal service has boomed in HCM City recently, seriously affecting the dignity of Vietnamese women.


Phan Cong

The HCM City Department of Education and Training has opened a new programme to encourage high school students to study Vietnamese history more thoroughly.

From April 19 to May 20, 200 large banners with brief biographies of 24 famous Vietnamese figures, including Ho Chi Minh, Dang Van Ngu, Dao Duy Anh, Huynh Tan Phat, Le Duan and Le Duc Tho, will be hung at 14 high schools in the city.

The education and training department said that if the programme was effective it would be applied in all high schools in the city.