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Separated at the end of the Vietnam war, an "Americanized" woman and her Vietnamese mother are reunited after 22 years. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Nominated for Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
a new image of the Ugly American See more (28 total) »


  (in credits order)
Mai Thi Kim ... Herself
Heidi Neville-Bub ... Herself

Gerald Ford ... Himself (archive footage)
Tom Miller ... Himself
Tran Tuong Nhu ... Herself
Mabel Neville ... Herself
Don Neville ... Himself
Royce Hughes ... Herself
Wanda Hamlett ... Herself
John Bub ... Himself
Do Huu Vinh ... Himself
Do Trong Tinh ... Himself
Do Thi Thu Hien ... Herself
Do Thi Hong Lien ... Herself
Dinh Dung ... Himself
Kaitlin Neville ... Herself
Jessica Neville ... Herself
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Brenda Lewis ... Herself

Directed by
Gail Dolgin 
Vicente Franco 
Produced by
Gail Dolgin .... producer
Sunshine Ludder .... associate producer
Original Music by
B. Quincy Griffin 
Hector Perez 
Van-Anh T. Vo 
Cinematography by
Vicente Franco 
Film Editing by
Kim Roberts 
Sound Department
Dan Olmsted .... sound re-recording mixer
Visual Effects by
James Kenney .... titles & graphics
Other crew
Woo Cho .... producer's representative
Tran Tuong Nhu .... consultant
Kenn Rabin .... archival film researcher


Additional Details

Also Known As:
USA:83 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.37 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Filming Locations:

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.See more »


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27 out of 28 people found the following review useful.
a new image of the Ugly American, 13 June 2003
Author: cranesareflying from usa

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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