10:07′ 27/08/2008 (GMT+7)

Grandchild (2006).

VietNamNet Bridge – Painter Le Duc Biet has recently opened his individual painting exhibition entitled “Past and Present” at the Vietnam Military History Museum.

Through 79 paintings in various genres inducing sketches, oil and gouache, the exhibition is a lively story about the war and peace  from the anti-US war to the present day.

Le Duc Biet’s paintings highlight the image of soldiers, the revolutionary war and the armed forces.

He also introduced his 20 sketches featuring the historical moments of the the fire co-ordinate of Ninh Binh and Ham Rong, Thanh Hoa during 1966-1973

Le Duc Biet now works for the Nam Dinh Fine Arts Association. He has many paintings winning prizes at national and regional exhibitions.

(Source: Nhan Dan)

Vietnam War Remnants Museum

September 23, 2008

The human rights violations and war crimes atrocities American and French forces committed in Vietnam

Photo, Pictures of, Images, Picture
(January 27, 2005)

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Photo of Vietnamese school children completing homework assignments about American weapons used against their country during the Vietnam war.

pic of American M16 rifle being held against a civilian woman’s head.

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Picture of American tank on display at the American (Vietnam) War Remnants Museum.

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Picture of American soldier laughing historically at the charred remains of a VC soldier who was burned to death by a Napalm Bomb.

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Image of American Army grunt committing war crimes in Vietnam.

Pictures of Dummy portraying Northern POW.

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Picture of American armored fighting vehicle dragging men to their death.  Remember Somalia when America claimed higher ground when war lords drug US pilots around the capital.

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Image of America’s aircraft spraying Agent Orange Dioxin on civilian villages in Vietnam.

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Photo of innocent Vietnamese children who were often the victims of Agent Orange Defoliant Dioxin..

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Photo of little American boy who lost his father in Vietnam sitting in military graveyard

Picture of highly decorated army sergeant who returned his medals and telling the Vietnamese people that he was wrong and sorry.

The Vietnamese film masterpiece Bao Gio Cho Den Thang Muoi (The Love Doesn’t Come Back) has just been selected as one of the 18 best Asian films of all times by the news network CNN.
The film, made in 1984 by director Dang Nhat Minh, takes a gritty look at the emotional war. It feels like something right out of the ‘60s, evoking both nostalgia for what was and a profound relief over what has ended. It stars Le Van as the main female character.
Coming home after visiting her husband at the southwestern front, Duyen (Le Van) carries with her an endless pain. He husband had died. On her journey home by boat, she fell in the river and was saved by teacher Khang. Duyen hides the death of her husband from the family, especially from her father-in-law who is seriously ill. To console him, Duyen asks Khang to imitate her husband’s writing and write letters to the family to keep their hopes alive. The letters bring joy to the family, while she suffers alone. To further complicate her life, rumours spread that she and Khang are having an affair.
When Duyen’s father-in-law knows he is dying, he asks Duyen to call his son home to meet him for the last time. And at that moment, the news about the death of her husband cannot be hidden anymore.
The film, considered one of the masterpieces of Vietnam’s cinema, won prestigious national and international prizes including the Golden Lotus at the Vietnam Film Festival in 1985, special prize at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival in 1989, and was also honoured at the International Hawaii Film Festival in 1985.
Minh was born in Hue in 1938 and started his career in 1965 as a documentary maker. He has made dozens of films which have received domestic and international recognition. Minh was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Republic of Korea (RoK) in 2005.
In CNN’s list of top 18 films in Asia, China ranked first with five films that include In the Mood for Love, To Live, Shower, Infernal Affairs and Still Life, China’s films are followed by Japan’s Shall We Dance?, Ikiru and the Ballad of Narayama. Films made by RoK, New Zealand, India, Chinese Taipei and Iran also made the list. (VNA)

A Toxic Legacy In Vietnam

September 23, 2008

17 September 2008

A Toxic Legacy In Vietnam – Download (MP3) audio clip
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The United States and Vietnam continue to expand their cooperation to address Agent Orange and its toxic contaminant dioxin, with a joint advisory committee meeting last week in Hanoi.

The working session, the third in as many years, brought American and Vietnamese scientists together to review ongoing U.S.-Vietnam Agent Orange efforts as well as to discuss additional environmental remediation and health projects to be recommended to policy makers. Plans were announced for use of three million dollars provided by the U.S. Congress for programs to deal with Agent Orange, a defoliant used in some parts of the country during the Vietnam war.

Agent Orange has long been a sensitive issue for both nations. In recent years, however, discussion has moved beyond the finger pointing of old adversaries toward the constructive cooperation of international partners. While more scientific research must be done to determine the lasting impact of Agent Orange on Vietnam, the U.S. acknowledges Vietnam’s concerns and is acting to help address them. The science-based, joint-government approach of the recent meetings illustrates how Vietnam and the United States are working closely together to move forward on this issue.

“Everyone today understands the importance of this issue to U.S.-Vietnam relations and to the Vietnamese people,” said U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak.

Overall, the U.S. has spent more than forty million dollars to help Vietnamese with disabilities, regardless of cause. Some of the money allocated by Congress for Agent Orange activities will help people with disabilities in Danang, the site of a former U.S. airbase where the defoliant was stored and prepared for aerial use. The U.S. is also looking into cleanup activities of so-called dioxin “hot spots” and aims to join with other donors to best coordinate efforts.

Looking forward, the U.S. will continue to focus on supporting Vietnamese efforts to secure a safe environment and assisting Vietnamese living with disabilities, regardless of their cause.

The first Vietnamese private aircraft will take to the skies next week, says its owner Doan Nguyen Duc, chairman of the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Joint Stock Company (HAGL), a well-known Vietnamese conglomerate.

Duc told Thanh Nien Wednesday that the Vietnam Air Services Co. has finished 95 percent of procedures permitting his Beechcraft King Air 350 to take off.

When the procedures get completed by next week, the plane will fly from Ho Chi Minh City to Pleiku Town, where HAGL is headquartered, in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, Duc said.

Duc bought the aircraft from the US for US$7 million in May this year.

Reported by Tran Hung

By D’ANN WHITE | The Brandon News & Tribune
Published: September 17, 2008

TAMPA – The story spread like wildfire through the close-knit Vietnamese-American community.

In churches around the nation, they held special services to pray for the 18-year-old woman of Vietnamese heritage who was brutally raped and beaten April 24 at Bloomingdale Regional Library in Brandon.

In Westminster, Calif., Michael Nguyen, a member of the Union of Vietnamese Student Associations of Southern California, organized a carwash and bake sale to help pay her medical bills.

Closer to home, Michelle Phan of Tampa and her friends were considering a similar type of fundraiser after learning the victim likely will need expensive, long-term rehabilitation.

“I first heard about the rape victim on a MySpace bulletin,” said Phan, a 21-year-old student studying illustration at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota. “A lot of young people were talking about it so, after hearing her story, how she had this full scholarship to college and so much promise that was destroyed, I just felt compelled to help her.”

Phan said their first idea was to host a barbecue or carwash. But when she announced her plans on her Web site, xanga.com/ricebunny, the fundraiser evolved into Fashion for Compassion, a benefit fashion show.

“People just started offering to help,” Phan said. “We got the ballroom at the Tampa Convention Center for a huge discount, free food, and a lot of independent Asian and American designers from around the country contributed fashions for the show; everything from T-shirts and street wear to couture.”

Amid it all, Phan and her partners, Yvette Nguyen, 20, of Sarasota and Wey Nguyen, 25, of St. Petersburg, received an unexpected phone call two weeks ago.

The rape victim’s mother called to say she heard about the benefit and appreciated it, Phan said. The mom said her daughter, who is undergoing inpatient rehabilitation in Sarasota, can’t walk or talk and is partially blind, but she can smile in response to questions, Phan said.

“Our hearts just dropped when we got that call. She invited us to meet with her and her daughter,” Phan said, adding the women gratefully accepted the invitation. “The family is really private, and we felt so honored, so trusted and so inspired.”

i’m angry and frustrated about what happened to this woman, and why. it makes me feel sick and disgusted. it hurts. i wonder why people could be so cruel. and then i think about the people who have supported this woman, and women throughout the world, to stop violence. i think my role as director for Cal’s Vagina Monologues. my mission, my community. i think about the kindness and courage of such people like Phan and her fellow designer friends. and i am inspired.

Part of Hoa Lo prison in Hanoi, where Senator John McCain was held, is a museum. The rest was razed for a high-rise. (Justin Mott for The New York Times)

McCain’s war story is a fading memory in Vietnam

McCain’s war story is a fading memory in Vietnam
Sunday, September 21, 2008

HANOI: Senator John McCain’s wartime jailer thrust two fingers into the air as if he were on a campaign trail and shouted: “John McCain! My friend! Victory!”

It is a fiction he seems to revel in – the jailer who was actually the prisoner’s friend, who has watched his political career with paternal pride, and who is now hurt and offended when McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, says he was tortured by his captors.

Tran Trong Duyet, 75, was head of the guard unit at Hoa Lo prison – nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton – during McCain’s five-and-a-half-year imprisonment, which began after his bomber was shot down over the city in October 1967. Duyet presided over the neglect and torture of McCain, which was witnessed by his fellow prisoners and which left him with lasting injuries.

The experience has become a staple of McCain’s political biography, and it has given Duyet a place in a footnote of history, which he occupies with gusto.

For most Vietnamese, though, McCain’s story is an obscure artifact of a receding history. In a week of interviews around Hanoi, neither his imprisonment nor his presidential candidacy seemed to arouse much excitement.

Vietnam’s relations with the United States are on an even keel, and Vietnam has little at stake in the election.

While McCain wins points among some Vietnamese for having supported the normalization of relations with the United States in 1995, his story, for the most part, has taken on an aura of wartime kitsch in Vietnam, like the self-parodying propaganda posters that are now sold in galleries, or the “Good Morning Vietnam” T-shirts popular with tourists.

There is Duyet, the jailer with the vivid imagination. There is the nurse who treated McCain for a few minutes after he was shot down. And there is Mai Van On, the man credited with pulling McCain from the lake after he crashed, and who died two years ago.

There is the little chunk of the prison, preserved as a museum when the rest of the building was razed to make way for a high-rise, with its half-hearted and anachronistic wartime propaganda.

Duyet still seems at home here, and his memories are in harmony with the carefully chosen exhibits in the museum; he pointed proudly to a sweater and a paper fan as evidence of the comforts the prisoners enjoyed.

The walls are hung with photographs of prisoners playing sports and making Christmas dinner and of McCain lying on a cot being treated by a doctor.

“That’s me with the prisoners,” Duyet said, pointing to a group photograph. “And there we are shaking hands like friends when the prisoners were released.”

But his greatest pride is his account of his relationship with McCain.

“I used to meet with him in my office at the end of the day and debate with him,” Duyet said. “We debated quite fiercely, but there was never any personal prejudice between us. The debate was between two men in a manly style. But after that we were quite friendly. We didn’t take it personally.”

This is certainly not the way McCain remembers it, nor is it the way that witnesses and history have recorded it. In 2000, McCain called his captors “cruel and sadistic people” and declared, “I will hate them for as long as I live.”

McCain has visited Hanoi several times in recent years, and although he has returned to the prison, he has not met with Duyet to compare memories. “I’ll call right now my interrogator that tortured me and my friends a gook,” McCain said in 2000, using a particularly offensive term for Asians. “You can quote me.”

Soon after the prisoners were released in 1973, he described his torture in a long essay in U.S. News & World Report.

“They bounced me from pillar to post, kicking and laughing and scratching,” he wrote. “After a few hours of that, ropes were put on me and I sat that night bound with ropes.”

He continued: “For the next four days, I was beaten every two to three hours by different guards. My left arm was broken again and my ribs were cracked.”

None of that is true, Duyet insisted. All fabrication. All political posturing by McCain. “Some Americans still carry a prejudice toward Vietnam,” he said. “So McCain has to say he was beaten to gain the votes of these people.”

At the edge of the lake in Hanoi where McCain parachuted from his crippled plane, there is a small concrete marker noting the event. It depicts a man on his knees with his arms in the air as if surrendering.

“I don’t know much about him,” said Do Van Sy, 78, who was exercising nearby in white shorts and a white tank top, carrying an umbrella in case of rain and a paper fan in case of sun. “You’ll have to ask the older men about that.”

Bo The An, 76, sitting on a bench nearby, knew quite a bit about McCain. “He was a pilot who bombed Vietnam, and he was our enemy,” he said. “But that was a long time ago. The important thing is what is in his mind today. I wish him good luck.”

In his 1973 account, McCain said that he broke his right leg and both arms when his plane crashed and that he was surrounded by an angry crowd, “all hollering and screaming and cursing and spitting and kicking at me.”

Once he was pulled from the crowd, a nurse named Nguyen Thi Thanh said, she bound his wounds and gave him a few sips of medicinal liquor.

In an interview, Thanh, now 81, said she had followed his career since then, although with her fading eyesight he is just a fuzzy image now on television.

“It seems he’s been running for president for a long time,” she said. “So he’s quite persistent, isn’t he?”

She is confident that whatever happens, he will not give up. “I’m only 81 now. My mother lived till 94. That’s 13 more years. So each time he runs for the presidency, I’ll have a chance to see him again.”

Art for Agent Orange victims

September 23, 2008

Debra Jeanne Kraus

An American woman has dedicated her life to fighting for justice for victims of Agent Orange. She spoke to Thanh Nien Daily during her second visit to Vietnam with the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund.

Agent Orange campaigner Debra Jeanne Kraus has temporarily suspended her activism because she is losing another family member.

The 54-year-old Kraus lost her Vietnam veteran husband to Agent Orange-related lung cancer 12 years ago. Now she is losing her 88-year-old mother to heart failure.

Kraus intends to resume her life’s work soon, including completing an essay she intended to enter into a competition run by a Vietnamese newspaper to support the ongoing lawsuit against the American manufacturers of toxic herbicides used in the Vietnam War.

The Californian has already created an installation art project called Fiat Lux (Let There be Light) to raise awareness of the deadly effects of Agent Orange.

“[This] project artwork will end when I’m no longer able to work,” she says.

Kraus’s installation, which includes paintings, photos, sculptures, ceramics, videos and performance pieces, has been exhibited twice in the U.S and presented to an international conference on Agent Orange/dioxin victims in Hanoi in 2006.

Fiat Lux is brutal in its criticism of American use of toxic herbicides at the time of deployment, the US cared only about winning the war, not the toxicity of the herbicides it used.

After illnesses and birth defects were first detected by those who designed the herbicides, it took a long time for the American government to ban its use.

And now, four decades later, the US government is still denying a link between Agent Orange and the birth defects and other illnesses many Vietnamese and Vietnam War veterans still suffer.

Between 1961 and 1971, US troops sprayed about 80 million liters of defoliants, including Agent Orange, on Vietnamese forests to deprive southern Vietnamese guerillas of their cover and crops.

As many as 4.8 million Vietnamese were exposed to dioxin, the carcinogenic chemical found in Agent Orange and around 3 million of them have suffered serious health problems, according to Vietnam Association of Agent Orange/dioxin victims (VAVA).

In 2004, VAVA filed a lawsuit on behalf of Vietnamese victims against 37 American chemical companies that produced toxic chemicals used during the war.

A US court dismissed the suit on the ground that these chemicals weren’t banned at the time. Last year, VAVA appealed and was again dismissed. It plans to appeal to the US Supreme Court next month.

Also last year, the American Congress set aside US$3 million for dioxin cleanup throughout Vietnam, especially in Agent Orange “hotspots” such as Da Nang City and Bien Hoa Town, Dong Nai Province. Inspired by the international pop art movement of the 1960s, Kraus incorporated even the most commonplace objects into her art to help convey her message.

In Living Without, a piece showing several body organs destroyed by Agent Orange, the artist used her husband’s X-ray images.

The letters and photos he sent home during his six-month tour in Vietnam add a realistic touch to another work, Homecoming, which reproduces Vietnam’s defoliated and burned forests.

Kraus says she started her project out of “anger and resentment” in 1998, two years after her husband died.

On the day he died, May 28, 1996, former US President Bill Clinton and the Department of Veterans Affairs included adenocarcinoma of the lung, the secondary cancer that caused her husband’s death, in its list of Agent Orange-related diseases.

Though she was later compensated with a monthly allowance and an educational stipend, the compensation came too little too late.

“The government didn’t admit their guilt for poisoning him and they didn’t apologize,” she says.

Nor would his name, Peter Charles Kraus, ever be engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., that honors only Vietnam War veterans who were killed in action.

So, “childless, heavily indebted and widowed from a war that had ended decades earlier,” Kraus went back to school to find “answers.”

But what she found was more questions about the American government’s use of Agent Orange. She also found something far more important: art.

“Its visual language speaks to the soul,” she says. “That’s where the change in our governments must occur.”

Her first two exhibitions generated “overwhelming” responses. The first Fiat Lux show was held at the University of California, Berkeley, shortly after the American invasion on Iraq in 2003 and the second at Los Angeles Valley College during the presidential election in 2004.

Kraus received many notes from audience members saying things like “thank you,” to “I miss my friend who’s currently serving in Iraq,” to deeply personal questions about whether they should have children.

“They were in tears. They were physically moved. They wrote papers,” Kraus said.

Fiat Lux is in storage now, ready to be shown again once Kraus resumes her campaigning.

Kraus plans to add new pieces to the project, which she calls “an artistic dialogue” about Agent Orange.

Those new works – several paintings about the freedom and peace Vietnam is now experiencing and a project about the global food chain – reflect her widened interest.

After visiting Vietnam three times – twice with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and once to attend the conference in Hanoi – Kraus has seen a country forging ahead despite lingering pain from the past.

The fight for justice for those affected by Agent Orange needs to be fought globally, says Kraus, who uses the plural when talking about “government.”

She said the fight extends beyond the American government’s unscrupulous use of toxic herbicides to win a war. It also includes the extensive testing and use of these chemicals by several governments, including the US and New Zealand, and the other toxic chemicals that have been introduced to the global food chain.

For Kraus, of the many painful legacies of the Vietnam War, helping Agent Orange/Dioxin victims and cleaning up contaminated soil and water should be the top priority of American and Vietnamese governments.

“Yes, [removing] unexploded ordnance is important because agriculture is at stake. Children are at stake, families are at stake, but the level of public Agent Orange/Dioxin exposure is a much more important issue at this time. It’s been 40-plus years.”

Kraus is part of the NGO Agent Orange Working Group (AOWG) which coordinates activities to clean up dioxin-contaminated areas in Vietnam.

At present, this organization is channeling funds from the U.S government and other sources to support agencies such as United Nations Development Program and the Ford Foundation to carry out remediation work throughout the country.

Fellow Agent Orange activist Vern Weitzel, who manages AOWG’s email list, heard Kraus’ speech to an international conference in Hanoi two years ago.

“I was very impressed,” he said. “But clearly, I was not the only person in the meeting to empathize with this lady from California whose values and emotions are like those in Vietnam who have suffered loss.”

Weitzel, a former meteorologist for the US army during the war, said when it comes to Agent Orange, most NGOs’ approach is to help disabled people regardless of the causes of their disabilities.

Kraus says the US National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine is reluctant to admit many cancers and illnesses, including birth defects, are connected to the dioxin in Agent Orange because so many other defoliants were used during the war.

Kraus believes governments worldwide do not push hard enough for scientific research that would explain what is going on.

“It’s all about money,” she says. Yet, Kraus has gone through enough to know that ultimately, “understanding and forgiveness,” rather than acrimonious criticism, is the answer.

“[So] much has changed since the war,” says her friend, photographer Justin Mott, who saw many Vietnam War veterans show up to support the VAVA lawsuit in a public conference in San Francisco last year.

So it’s compassion that Kraus wants. “It will take compassionate presidents from all countries to move [research] forward for the answers.”

“From the Earth to the Moon and Back,” a piece in Debra Jeanne Kraus’s Fiat Lux project. This work positions the moon equal in size to the earth, to condemn the American government for spending billions of dollar on space mission yet choosing not to fund research on dioxin’s effects on human health in the 1960s.

Writer takes motorcycle trip through nation

CNHI News Service
The 1975 photograph of the last Marine helicopter lifting off the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon, a long line of luckless Vietnamese evacuees stranded below, created an indelible portrait of human desperation.

Those left behind had been soldiers in the defeated Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), or friends of the U.S. government. They anticipated dreadful consequences at the hands of Ho Chi Minh’s victorious vassals.

They were right. The communist regime executed those considered most disloyal to the nationalist cause. Others were sentenced to long prison terms. But most were sent to so-called re-education camps to embrace the socialist credo of, do as you’re told, toil for the common good, and forget about getting ahead through self-initiative.

Fortunately, for Vietnam’s future, the economic lessons of communism didn’t take hold. And 20 years after the war’s end, Vietnam abandoned strict control over everyday commerce and instead encouraged the awakening of an entrepreneurial spirit not seen since the American presence.

Open-market capitalism spawned new businesses, trade with former enemies, private investment -and a government ambition to attract hard currency through aggressive promotion of tourism.

The goal: turn the bloody sites of war into tourist shrines that might deliver badly-needed foreign dollars.

Sites such as the Ho Chi Minh Trail, an infamous series of zigzag paths that fed weapons and supplies to the communist troops in the south. Bombed heavily by American forces during the war, it is considered the national symbol of success.

Thus the government committed more than $400 million to restoring the historically important sections of the trail, and expanding it all the way to Saigon, now called Ho Chi Minh City. The highway project is expected to reduce congestion on narrow coastal Highway One, the only other north-south artery connecting the once-divided country.

Riding a motorcycle along the trail requires dodging water buffalo, cows, goats, dogs, ducks, chickens and pigs – and keeping your balance when large transport trucks or buses force you off the road. You also need to be alert to motorbikes and pedestrians darting out from side streets in towns and villages.

Surprisingly, however, construction crews have converted muddy jungle tracks into a shiny black thoroughfare that tourists can traverse by motorcycle, bicycle or foot.

Recommended stops include those sections bombed by American planes, and also sprayed with the powerful herbicide Agent Orange to expose supply and troop movements. The effects of the chemical are still visible as stunted foliage along the foothills and riverbank mangroves of north-central Vietnam.

The original trail extended into Laos and Cambodia, covering more than 10,000 miles. Thick jungle growth claimed most of it after the war. But strategic sections were maintained as a reminder of the communist will for an undivided nation.

The paved trail will measure about 1,000 miles when finished. Our merry band of bikers drove about half of it, starting at Tan Ky in the north and ending at Hue near the 17th parallel, the old dividing line between north and south ironically known as the demilitarized zone. Ironic because more military action occurred within the zone than any other section of Vietnam.

War memorials dot the rebuilt trail, including an impressive 12-foot marble monument to the “victims” of Deo Da Deo mountain pass. American B-52s dropped tons of explosives and chemicals on this highest point of the trail near Phong Nha.

Phong Nha is also the scene of the Ke Bang caves, the oldest and largest limestone caverns in Asia. They are part of a huge national park and one of the premier tourist sites in the country, drawing visitors from more than 100 nations.

The spectacular formations have enchanting names like Lion, Fairy Caves, Royal Court and Buddha. During the Vietnam war, they were used to protect munitions from B-52 raids. Phong Nha, in central Vietnam, was a key supply station for the North during the war.

At Khe Sanh, the war’s most publicized battle site, a symbolic “victory” statue juts from a weed-infested field that once hosted a strategic U. S. Marine outpost and airfield. Three bloody encounters, including a 75-day siege in 1968, are recounted in a nearby museum. Captured American tanks, helicopters and other war relics remind visitors that the final triumph belonged to the communists.

“It was comparable to defeating the French at Dien Bien Phu,” remarks Nguyen Ngoc, the tour guide who prides himself on knowing the wartime history of his country. “It was that important; a critical psychological victory.”

More than 10,000 North Vietnamese and scores of American soldiers died at Khe Sanh. The Vietnamese burn incense and place flowers at the stone memorial’s base, which portrays a U.S. Marine raising his hands in surrender.

At Vietnam’s largest military burial ground, Truong Son Cemetery, mourners pay tribute to “heroes of the American war” by burning bundles of fake $100 U.S. bills in incense pots so the soldiers will enjoy a rich afterlife. The dollar, it’s explained, is worth far more than the Vietnamese dong, making it the preferred phony currency to honor the deceased.

“We hold no hostility toward Americans,” said Nguyen Van My, who described himself as a 66-year-old army war veteran during a brief chat at the cemetery. “We respect the dollar. It is a symbol of strength.”

By contrast, the dong has been slipping badly as inflation besets the Vietnamese economy. Twice devalued in the past year, it now exchanges at the rate of 16,800 dong for one American dollar. That makes Vietnam one of the few world bargains for U.S. tourists. Hotels, food, transportation, clothes and jewelry are inexpensive. Our eight-day trip, booked through the Hanoi tour company Offroad Vietnam, cost just $850 per person, including overnight accommodations, meals, Honda 160 cubic-centimeter motorcycles, fuel and two guides/interpreters.

We stayed in budget hotels, but the sheets were clean, the showers were hot, and even remote mountain stops featured air conditioning, although power blackouts occurred often during the early evening hours. And it did take a few nights to get used to the three-inch mattresses; a few mornings to develop patience for the coffee that slowly drips from a metal strainer atop the cup. But once done, it jolts you into the day’s activities.

The investment in tourism is paying off because Vietnam offers some of the most charming tropical scenery in the world. The mist rising from the land against the morning sky is resplendent. The lush mountains and gorges and verdant valleys and endless rivers create a colorful landscape. A coast line that stretches for hundreds of miles along the South China Sea makes it a marvel of geography.

It also makes you wonder where the country would be in today’s travel world had it not been mired in war for a half-century against the French, the Japanese, the Americans, the Cambodians and the Chinese.

William B. Ketter is vice president of news for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., a news company based in Birmingham, Ala., that owns 89 daily newspapers, including the Commercial-News. Contact him at wketter@cnhi.com.

Award-Winning Film “The Rebel” Returns for Special Engagements In LA & OC

September 22, 2008 by vaalastaff



Dustin Nguyen Starrer Set for Promotional Screenings to Celebrate Official Ultimate Edition DVD Release; Star and Director To Appear

LOS ANGELES, CA – Suspense, action, romance and a touch of black magic ignite when the award-winning THE REBEL, by film director Charlie Nguyen charges back onto the big screen in a pair of special Southern California promotional screening engagements during the month of October.

THE REBEL will be presented on Oct. 3, 7 p.m. at the Bowers Museum’s Norma Kershaw Auditorium, 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana 92706, telephone: (714) 567-3695; and Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m. at the Edwards Alhambra Renaissance 14, 1 East Main Street (corner Garfield Ave.), Alhambra 91801, telephone (626) 300-8312.  Director Charlie Nguyen and lead actor Dustin Nguyen (21 JUMP STREET; HEAVEN AND EARTH) are slated to appear, and will participate in a Q & A session following each screening.

Admission to the Oct. 3 screening is free to the public, with a pre-screening reception at 6 p.m.; admission to the Oct. 23 screening (presented on 35mm film) is $10 general, and $8 students, seniors and Friends of Visual Communications member with valid I.D.  Parking information available by calling the respective theaters.

The screenings, organized and presented by Visual Communications, the nation’s premier Asian Pacific American media arts organization and by Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA), Southern California’s leading Vietnamese arts and culture organization and the presenter of the biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF), coincide with the ultimate edition DVD release of the film.  Copies of the 2-disc set, packed with commentaries by the director and lead actors, exclusive interviews, deleted scenes, trailers and other extras will be available at both screenings for post-screening autograph sessions with the director and actor.

“Throughout its four decade-long history, Visual Communications has been committed to championing the best new work by Asian Pacific American artists,” said Shinae Yoon, Visual Communications Executive Director.  “The DVD release of THE REBEL is an important step toward spotlighting new and exciting filmmakers like Charlie Nguyen, and in cultivating a new generation of media artists who will carry the question of Asian Pacific diasporic identity forward.”

Celebrated as the highest grossing Vietnamese film ever made, THE REBEL stars contemporary Asian superstars Johnny Tri Nguyen (The Protector; Spiderman), Dustin Nguyen (“21 Jump Street,” Finishing the Game) and Vietnamese pop star/actress Ngo Thanh Van.  Set in Vietnam in the 1920s during the long-standing French colonization, rebel forces emerge to disrupt the foreign control as the French employ elite Vietnamese agents to destroy them.  Government agent Cuong (Johnny Nguyen) captures rebel operative Thuy (Ngo Thanh Van), only to escape with her when Cuong’s conflicted allegiances turn on a moment of brutal clarity.  Cuong and Thuy are in turn pursued by a power-mad agent (Dustin Nguyen) who harbors personal demons of his own at the hands of French colonizers.

THE REBEL has garnered worldwide critical and popular acclaim since its overflow 2007 World Premiere screening as the Opening Night feature of the Vietnamese International Film Festival.  The online movie magazine Film Threat has gushed over the film, proclaiming THE REBEL “So badass it hurts…but it hurts so good”; while Pop Journalism praised THE REBEL as “an achievement of martial arts ability anchored in an intriguing tale of politics, power and betrayal”.

Winner of the 2007 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival’s Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature and the 2007 Vietnamese International Film Festival’s Audience Award, THE REBEL was soon after acquired for home distribution by The Weinstein Company, and is slated for release on Sept. 30, 2008.

“Both VAALA and Visual Communications are excited to team up to present THE REBEL to the greater Los Angeles and Orange County communities,” noted Ysa D. Le, Executive Director of Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association.  “I’d also like to call for everyone to buy the officially released DVDs to support the filmmakers, so that we could have more great films likeTHE REBEL.”

Founded in 1991 by a group of Vietnamese American journalists, artists and friends, Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is a community-based non-profit organization that seeks to promote and enrich arts and culture by, for, and about the Vietnamese communities.  VAALA has organized numerous cultural events such as art exhibitions, book fairs, book signings, recitals, plays, lectures, the biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF), the biennial Cinema Symposium, the annual Children’s Moon Festival Art Contest and year-long art and music classes.  VAALA recently developed smART Program, which offers free art workshops for non-profit youth organizations in the Orange County and Los Angeles areas.

Incorporated in 1970, Visual Communications is a non-profit Asian Pacific American media arts center that promotes intercultural understanding through the creation, presentation, preservation and support of media works by and about Asian Pacific Americans.  A pioneer in the national media arts arena, Visual Communications boasts a catalog currently comprising over 100 films and video produced through the organization; maintains a photographic archive of nearly 500,000 historical and contemporary images of Asian Pacific American histories and communities; conducts filmmaker training and education workshops and seminars; and organizes public exhibition events including the annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

For more information on the promotional screenings of THE REBEL; and for additional info about Visual Communications and VAALA programs and events, please visit www.vconline.org and www.vaala.org.

The Rebel Trailer from VAALA on Vimeo.


September 22, 2008

Liên lạc: VAALA, (714) 893-6145; vaala91@yahoo.com

Visual Communications, (213) 680-4462, info@vconline.org


*Đạo diễn Charlie Nguyễn và tài tử Dustin Nguyễn sẽ tham dự hai buổi chiếu phim để gặp gỡ khán giả*

LOS ANGELES – Những pha võ thuật hấp dẫn, ngoạn mục, đan vào một câu chuyện tình éo le trong bối cảnh lịch sử của thời kỳ chống Pháp sẽ trở lại với khán giả khi cuốn phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng được trình chiếu trên màn ảnh rộng trong hai buổi chiếu đặc biệt tại quận Cam và Los Angeles vào tháng 10.  Hai buổi chiếu đặc biệt này nhằm quảng bá cho dịp phát hành chính thức cuốn phim dưới dạng DVD gồm 2 dĩa với nhiều phần phụ lục đặc biệt như phỏng vấn đạo diễn và các tài tử chính, dàn dựng các pha võ thuật, những cảnh đã quay nhưng không có trong phim, và trailers.  Bộ DVD-2-dĩa do hãng phim Weinstein và Genius Products sản xuất.

Buổi chiếu đặc biệt đầu tiên của phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng dưới dạng DVD, sẽ được diễn ra vào lúc 6:00 P.M. (tiệc trà) và 7:00 P.M. (chiếu phim) ngày 3 tháng 10 tại Viện Bảo Tàng Bowers, 2002 North Main Street, Santa Ana 92706, telephone: (714) 567-3695.  Vào cửa tham dự suất chiếu phim và tiệc trà tại Viện Bảo Tàng Bowers hoàn toàn miễn phí.

Buổi chiếu thứ nhì, bản 35 ly, sẽ được diễn ra vào lúc 7:30 P.M. ngày 23 tháng 10 tại rạp Edwards Alhambra Renaissance 14, 1 East Main Street (corner of Garfield Ave.),Alhambra 91801, telephone (626) 300-8312.  Giá vé tham dự suất chiếu ở rạp Edwards Alhambra Renaissance 14:  $10, sinh viên, quý vị cao niên và thành viên của Visual Communications $8.

Đạo diễn Charlie Nguyễn và tài tử Dustin Nguyễn (21 Jump Street và Finishing the Game) sẽ tham dự cả hai buổi chiếu để tiếp xúc với khán giả.

Hai buổi chiếu phim đặc biệt này do hai cơ quan văn hóa Visual Communications và Hội Văn Học Nghệ Thuật Việt Mỹ (VAALA) tổ chức. Visual Communications là một tổ chức hàng đầu về nghệ thuật truyền thông (media arts) của người Mỹ gốc Á.  Visual Communications tổ chức Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Á Châu Thái Bình Dương hàng năm tại Los Angeles.  Hội Văn Học Nghệ Thuật Việt Mỹ (VAALA) thực hiện Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Việt Nam Quốc Tế (Vietnamese International Film Festival – ViFF) cách mỗi năm một lần.  Năm ngoái, phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng vinh dự chiếm giải Grand Jury Award của Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Á Châu Thái Bình Dương ở Los Angeles và giải Khán Giả Bình Chọn tại ViFF.  Khoảng 700 khán giả đã đến tham dự buổi chiếu ra mắt lần đầu tiên (world

premiere) của Dòng Máu Anh Hùng khi cuốn phim được chiếu tại đêm khai mạc ViFF. Cuốn phim sau đó được phát hành tại Việt Nam và trở thành một trong những phim ăn khách nhất từ trước đến nay.

“Trải qua bốn thập niên, Visual Communications luôn vinh danh những tác phẩm mới của các nghệ sĩ người Mỹ gốc Á Châu Thái Bình Dương,” cô Shinae Yoon, Giám đốc điều hành của Visual Communications, trình bày.  “DVD phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng được phát hành là một bước tiến quan trọng trong việc giới thiệu những đạo diễn mới và tài năng như Charlie Nguyễn, cũng như trong công việc nuôi dưỡng một thế hệ nghệ sĩ sau này sẽ nâng cao vấn đề bản sắc của người gốc Á.”

Dòng Máu Anh Hùng có sự góp mặt của các tài tử Johnny Trí Nguyễn (The Protector, First Morning, Spiderman), Dustin Nguyễn (21 Jump Street, Finishing the Game) và người mẫu kiêm ca sĩ NgôThanh Vân. Phim mang bối cảnh Việt Nam vào thập niên 1920 khi phong trào chống Pháp dấy lên. Để đàn áp quân khởi nghĩa, người Pháp đã đào tạo một số người Việt Nam thành những toán đặc nhiệm chuyên săn lùng những tổ chức của nghĩa quân.

Dòng Máu Anh Hùng chiếm nhiều cảm tinh của giới điểm phim.  “Tàn nhẫn đến đau đớn… nhưng đau đớn mà quá đã,” (theo Film Threat).  Dòng Máu Anh Hùng là “một thành đạt về tuyệt kỹ võ thuật lồng trong một câu chuyện hấp dẫn về chính trị, quyền lực và bội phản” (trích Tạp chí Pop Journalism).

“Cả hai tổ chức VAALA và Visual Communications rất hứng khởi khi cùng thực hiện các buổi chiếu phim đặc biệt tại Los Angeles và quận Cam để quảng bá cuốn DVD sắp được chính thức phát hành,” cô Lê Đình Y-Sa, Giám đốc điều hành VAALA cho biết. “Trong dịp này, chúng tôi kêu gọi khán giả hãy ‘mua đĩa thiệt, ủng hộ phim Việt’ để chúng ta sẽ còn được xem nhiều phim hay như Dòng Máu Anh Hùng.” “Mua đĩa thiệt, ủng hộ phim Việt” sẽ là “châm ngôn” của Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Việt Nam Quốc Tế nhằm kêu gọi khán giả hỗ trợ các nhà làm phim.

Được thành lập vào năm 1991 bởi một số nghệ sĩ, nhà báo và thân hữu tại quận Cam, Hội Văn Học Nghệ Thuật Việt Mỹ (VAALA) là một tổ chức bất vụ lợi nhằm quảng bá những tác phẩm nghệ thuật do các nghệ sĩ người Việt hoặc gốc Việt thực hiện để góp phần phong phú hóa đời sống tinh thần của cộng đồng.  VAALA đã tổ chức nhiều cuộc triển lãm, ra mắt sách, kịch, trình diễn âm nhạc, hội thảo, Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Việt Nam Quốc Tế (ViFF), Cinema Symposium, Cuộc Thi Vẽ Thiếu Nhi và Thiếu Niên vào dịp Trung Thu, và các lớp âm nhạc và hội họa tại VAALA Studio.  VAALA cũng đã phát triển chương trình smART, nhằm tổ chức những buổi workshop về nghệ thuật cho các tổ chức bất vụ lợi phục vụ giới trẻ tại vùng quận Cam và Los Angeles.

Được thành lập vào năm 1970, Visual Communications là một tổ chức bất vụ lợi của người Mỹ gốc Á chuyên về media arts (nghệ thuật truyền thông) nhằm quảng bá sự thông cảm giữa các nền văn hóa qua sự sáng tạo, trình bày, bảo tồn và yểm trợ những tác phẩm thuộc về nghệ thuật truyền thông.  Visual Communications hiện có một catalog bao gồm hơn 100 phim và video do chính Visual Communications sản xuất; lưu trữ khoảng 500,000 tấm hình vừa lịch sử vừa đương đại của cộng đồng người Mỹ gốc Á.  Visual Communications thực hiện nhiều khóa học và hội thảo về điện ảnh, giáo dục; và tổ chức nhiều cuộc triển lãm, trình chiếu phim, bao gồm Đại Hội Điện Ảnh Á Châu Thái Bình Dương ở Los Angeles hàng năm.

Để biết thêm chi tiết về hai buổi chiếu đặc biệt của phim Dòng Máu Anh Hùng cũng như thông tin về hai tổ chức Visual Communications và VAALA, xin quý vị vào thăm trang nhà http://www.vconline.orghttp://www.vaala.org.