When memories collide: an Interview with Đoan Hoàng

Speaking of arrivals and returns…

PART I

During one of my trips back to my dad’s hometown, I asked my uncle if there were photographs of my dad from when he was living there. My uncle opened the cabinet beneath the family altar, and gave me several tin containers.

I pried open the rusty covers, and came across my dad’s identification document from the French colonial times, and those of his parents…

I leaf through the piles of black-and-whites
He is smartly dressed in short-sleeve shirts and cotton shorts
Studio shots with his family
In a park
On a beach
In front of his parents’ house
Childhood friends
Captain of the basketball team
There’s a letter from his pen pal in Japan, a girl who thought he was very handsome

PART II

Đoan Hoàng’s documentary Oh, Saigon explores these themes of arrival and return. In making the film, she heard stories she had never known were a part of her family’s past. Her parents talk of their life in South Vietnam—when her dad met her mom at a movie theater, his enlistment in the Air Force, the family leaving on the last helicopter out of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, their displacement to Kentucky, the hard years of adjustment.

Hoàng is currently making American Geisha, a documentary about her aunt, a former boat person who worked as a high class call girl in San Francisco.

I had a chance to sit down with Hoàng for an interview in Los Angeles on January 25, 2010. She was in town for a DVAN-sponsored screening of her film Oh, Saigon at the University of Southern California.

Click on this to hear the interview:

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–Chuong-Dai Vo

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