Daughter From Danang

"Excellent"

Daughter From Danang Review


At first glance, 29-year-old Heidi Bub looks like a typical suburban Tennessee housewife complete with southern drawl, but what a story she has to share. Born in Vietnam to an American father and a Vietnamese mother, she was one of thousands of children evacuated in the final days of the Vietnam war via Operation Babylift and put up for adoption in America. She was just seven years old. The wrenching Daughter From Danang follows Heidi on a return trip to Vietnam 22 years later, where she reunites with her birth mother and family, with surprising and harrowing results.

Accompanied by Tran Tuong Nhu, a Vietnamese-American journalist who acts as translator, Heidi, whose birth name was Mai Thi Hiep, seems eager to have the chance to discover her roots, especially since we discover her American childhood was no bed of roses and her adoptive mother advised her to forget her heritage in order to ensure a happy American life. Brainwashed by Oprah-esque pop psychology and the hope for "closure," Heidi can't wait for a few warm hugs from long-lost family members.

But then she arrives in Vietnam and lands in the arms of her haggard, poverty-stricken birth mother, Mai Thi Kim, who is overwhelmed by the reunion and full of nightmarish tales of how Western aid workers bullied her into giving up her daughter, telling her that as a mixed-race child Heidi would be shunned or even killed after the war's end.

Within hours of her first hug, Heidi is equally overwhelmed. Struck dumb by the clinginess of Mai Thi Kim, the poverty of her surroundings, the gaggle of half-siblings and cousins who show up to look her over, and the villagers who peer through the windows to take a peek, she quickly realizes that she may be in over her head. She's an American tourist, after all, and the oppressive humidity soon takes its toll while the makeshift banquets and restaurant meals served on dirty dishes in questionable surroundings turn her stomach.

And that's just the beginning of her problems. Heidi passes out wristwatches and other small gifts, but the family is unimpressed by her generosity. She's the rich American, after all, the one who made it out and won life's big lottery. Like many Vietnamese-Americans with connections to the old country, Heidi is expected to help meet the financial needs of the family, a family she doesn't even know.

Even as her mother tells the family that they're scaring Heidi and they should back off a bit, it only takes a couple of days for a cabal of cousins and brothers to surround Heidi and inform her of exactly what they expect: a ticket to America for Mom and a place for her to live. And if that's not possible, perhaps some sort of monthly stipend would be in order. So much for a Waltons family reunion.

It's at this point that the film becomes both incredibly gripping but funny, too. Heidi has a complete emotional meltdown, and the family quickly regroups to discuss the fact that they may have pushed just a bit too hard and that they need to come up with a new approach before their cash cow runs away screaming. Watching them scheme is both heartbreaking and comical.

Filmmakers Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco could not have predicted the drama they'd capture when they tagged along on Heidi's trip. Their luck continued when they won the 2002 Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary and were nominated for an Oscar. Both accolades are well deserved. Daughter From Danang is a small personal tale told against a huge and painful historical backdrop that continues to cast dark shadows 30 years after the fact. Just look into the eyes of Heidi and her mother, and you can see the pain. That's drama.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 83 mins

In Theaters: Friday 11th January 2002

Box Office USA: $0.7M

Distributed by: Paramount Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 60 Rotten: 16

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: , Vicente Franco

Producer:

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.