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Daughter from Danang

A film, available on video, by Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco



Daughter from Danang is a beautiful and troubling documentary an Amerasian adoptee’s reunion with her Vietnamese birthmother after 22 years of separation.

Heidi Bub (a.k.a. Mai Thi Hiep) was born in Vietnam months after her American GI father had left the country. Fearing for her daughter’s safety, Heidi’s birthmother sent her to the U.S. with Operation Babylift in 1975. Heidi grew up in Tennessee with a single, white adoptive mother who was emotionally distant and sometimes violent. When she and her American mom “broke up” (as Heidi puts it), the young woman began a search for her birthmother. Holt International Children’s Services had a letter in her file, contact resumed, and Heidi decided to return to Danang.

When the filmmaker Gail Dolgin heard about Heidi from a Vietnamese-American journalist, T. T. Nhu, she “knew there was a film to be made.” But for Heidi and her Vietnamese family, something beyond filmmaking goes on. Their first meeting is poignant and mutually rewarding, but after a few days incompatible fantasies collide. Heidi refuses to be the family’s ticket to a better life, and the relationship shatters.

Dolgin, co-director Vicente Franco, and Nhu (who served as interpreter for the reunion) must have decided against preparing Heidi for the inevitable cultural misunderstandings. Heidi begins as the subject of the film but ends up the object of our uncomfortable gaze. According to the directors, Heidi, did not watch the film until recently. She congratulated them on their success but said she wished the film had been about someone else. Who can blame her?

Winner of the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2002, Daughter from Danang screened at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and in New York’s New Directors/New Films series in March. It will air on PBS in 2003. Videos are available from Interfaze Productions, (510) 548-3699, gdolgin@igc.org.

--By Amy Klatzkin

Copyright 2002 Adoptive Families magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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