When a spunky, mini-skirted daughter of Ho Chi Minh's revolution leaves cosmopolitan Hanoi for a high school exchange program in rural Mississippi, her ideas about freedom, America, Vietnam and herself are thrown into question.

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When a spunky, mini-skirted daughter of Ho Chi Minh's revolution leaves cosmopolitan Hanoi for a high school exchange program in rural Mississippi, her ideas about freedom, America, Vietnam and herself are thrown into question.

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28 February 2002 (USA)  »

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A América de Mai  »

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One vietnamese girl's introduction to life in America
11 August 2002 | by (NYC/FL) – See all my reviews

Mai, a Vietnamese girl, comes to America (Mississippi) as an exchange student. Mai has grown up in post war Vietnam and her father, who fought for the communists, is now reasonably well off and runs a small hotel.

When Mai arrives in Mississippi her first host family is poor white trash family. Her hosts are unemployed, uniformly obese and spend long stretches sitting in front of the TV. These lounger-surfing, Salem-smoking, bible-thumping folks have an overweight daughter who disappears every Friday night for sex with her boyfriend. Not knowing what to expect from America Mai pretty much takes it all in stride and is cheerful throughout her stay. She also adds a lot to her high school classes in particular when her teacher focuses on the Viet Nam War. Mai says at one point how she had heard tales of American soldiers as bloodthirsty killers and she learns that for the most part they were scared young boys straight out of high schools like the one she is attending.

One night the host family's daughter takes Mai to a gay-bar as an adventure and Mai meets a drag queen named Christy. Mai and Christy become friends and at one point Mai asks Christy to the Prom. Christy agrees to go (as Chris).

Mai switches host families and goes to live with a middle class black family who introduce Mai to the folks at their locale Baptist Church. They also expose her to all things American, Roller-skating, bowling, cooking collard greens, and condemnation of homosexuals.

Mai is worried about how they will feel about her prom date and decides to ask someone else. We later see that she and Chris have remained friends but Chris has decided to reform and is dressed for the first time in the film as a boy and has decided to `go straight'

Although the film continues as Mai starts at Tulane and runs out of money only to move to Detroit and start work in a Vietnamese run Nail salon, I felt that the film lost steam after the high school period ended. Perhaps it was my gay perspective and I had lost interest in Mai. I was more concerned about Chris. I wanted to take that boy and shake him. What is it with some southerners that being gay means you have to wear a dress.

Overall I'd recommend this film. It's consistently interesting and if you were born and raised in the States as I was, there are moments when you get a new perspective on how those in other countries must perceive us.


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