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Daughter from Danang (2002)

Separated at the end of the Vietnam war, an "Americanized" woman and her Vietnamese mother are reunited after 22 years.
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mai Thi Kim ...
Heidi Neville-Bub ...
Himself (archive footage)
Tom Miller ...
Tran Tuong Nhu ...
Mabel Neville ...
Don Neville ...
Royce Hughes ...
Wanda Hamlett ...
John Bub ...
Do Huu Vinh ...
Do Trong Tinh ...
Do Thi Thu Hien ...
Do Thi Hong Lien ...
Dinh Dung ...


In 1975, as the Vietnam War was ending, thousands of orphans and Amerasian children were brought to the United States as part of "Operation Babylift." Daughter from Danang tells the dramatic story of one of these children, Heidi Bub (a.k.a. Mai Thi Hiep), and her Vietnamese mother, Mai Thi Kim, separated at the war's end and reunited 22 years later. Heidi, now living in Tennessee - a married woman with kids - had always dreamt of a joyful reunion. When she ventures to Vietnam to meet her mother, she unknowingly embarks on an emotional pilgrimage that spans decades and distance. Unlike most reunion stories that climax with a cliché happy ending, Daughter from Danang is a real-life drama. Journeying from the Vietnam War to Pulaski, Tennessee and back to Vietnam, Daughter from Danang tensely unfolds as cultural differences and the years of separation take their toll in a riveting film about longing and the personal legacy of war. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Documentary | War






Release Date:

11 January 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

I kori apo to Danang  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Herself: When I gave birth to her, she had no father, so I gave her my last name. And I gave her the name Hiep because it means united; united with her mother.
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User Reviews

a new image of the Ugly American
13 June 2003 | by (usa) – See all my reviews

I particularly liked John Petrakis's Tribune review where he writes in bold print: "not recommended for young children." There is no blood, no violence, no profanity, but this rating is due to the high emotional content. You have to search through your vocabulary for superlatives here, featured throughout are extraordinary glimpses of faces framed in their own natural environment, the underlying original music is superb and perfectly balanced, there is a wonderful golden-orange sunrise on a quiet riverbank following her first night in Vietnam where the camera finds a dragonfly resting atop the highest leaf, when her Vietnamese childhood memories return they appear to be almost sketched onto a canvas in an impressionistic blur, all beautifully layered together.

This film begins in 1975 as the Vietnam War was ending with Operation Babylift, (an event which, on it's own, is worthy of it's own documentary, particularly the newsreel footage seen here of an American social worker attempting to convince Vietnamese women to send their children to the USA under the guise of an airlift for war orphans), when a 7 year old Amerasian girl is separated from her family and sent to the USA for adoption, supposedly for her betterment, and she becomes `101% Americanized.' Yet in her 20's, when she yearns to meet her real mother, she discovers her mother feels the same way about missing her, so after 22 years of separation, she travels back to Vietnam in what turns out to be one incredible re-unification, beautifully capturing unanticipated depths of an experience that even the filmmakers could never have imagined. Both the mother and daughter are immensely appealing and couldn't express more genuine affection, but both are overwhelmed and completely flabbergasted by the personal and historical abyss that exists between them, leaving them both reeling, as if stepping on a land mine, from the unseen, misunderstood emotional scars left behind from the aftermath of the war. What starts out as a well-meaning attempt to wipe away bad childhood memories only ends up compounded with still more complicated, bad adult memories. One irony here is that her Vietnamese name means `united.' Sometimes in a documentary, the most difficult decision is to let the cameras continue to roll when you know you are intruding into the personal regions of someone's private anguish. But here, it is the best part of the film – a heart-wrenching, emotional jolt for the whole world to see that is simply unforgettable. What this film has to say about love, that it is so much more than just saying words, that sometimes you are called upon to demonstrate your love with deeds, is indescribable.

There may be an inclination to consider the girl too naive and spoiled and to disregard her out of hand. But I would urge people to reconsider this view, as she was unexplainably (to her) separated from her own family, raised instead by a single mother who eventually had no use for her at all, was also raised in one of the more racially intolerant communities in America, which might explain why she was so unprepared emotionally to handle something as simple as affection, a family notion completely alien to her, and which she found, at the time, completely suffocating. ("Get away from me!") Is it any wonder that she might prefer the more emotionally distant relationship with her adopted American family, as that's all she really knows? It should also be viewed in another perspective, as the translator reminded her, that the family pressure and the cultural differences would diminish the longer she stayed. Contrarily, by shortening her visit, which she herself chose, she put even more pressure on herself and her Vietnamese family to finalize what was missing for 22 years into one final day - a sheer impossibility. From a Vietnamese perspective, they were simply trying to include her, permanently, as a member of the family, not just in words, but in deeds.

But what I found so compelling in this girl, who was born in Vietnam, was that she really had no more sensitivity or understanding of Vietnam than the US government, namely none, which certainly demonstrates how easily we can learn to drop bombs on one another, and how inadvertently, by being so Americanized, besides living in material comfort, she was also taught the arrogance and narrow-mindedness of our American values when it comes to understanding the importance or significance of cultures from other nations. What have we learned since Vietnam? Look at our Government in action today, and the contempt we show to other nations unless they agree with us in lock step. What I found so compelling about this girl is how she represents, through no fault of her own, a new image of the ugly American, that looks different but thinks so much like the old image, how little progress we've made on that front, and how far we have to go.

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