A poignant portrait of the kind of cultural displacement only history can create Duki Dror's docu "The Journey of Vaan Nguyen" follows a father and daughter as they travel from adopted home Israel to his Vietnamese birthplace. Gracefully handled, bittersweet nonfiction portrait is a fine pickup for fests and TV programmers.

A poignant portrait of the kind of cultural displacement only history can create — and make stick — Duki Dror’s docu “The Journey of Vaan Nguyen” follows a father and daughter as they travel from adopted home Israel to his Vietnamese birthplace. Gracefully handled, bittersweet nonfiction portrait is a fine pickup for fests and TV programmers, with a 52-minute version also available.

Having fled after Saigon’s 1975 fall — a long, harrowing odyssey partly limned by his voiceover commentary — now-middle-aged Hoiami Nguyen and wife wound up among nearly 200 “boat people” granted permanent refuge by Israel four years later. There, they raised five Hebrew-speaking daughters, eking out a living but always hoping to return home. Vaan is the offspring most alienated from “elite Israeli society,” tired of lifelong treatment as a racial curio. Perhaps alone among her siblings, she aches to start anew in Vietnam, as do both parents. But the extensive farmlands Hoiami’s own father once owned were long-since given by the government to new owners uninterested in relinquishing them. Father and daughter’s trip thus combines familial warmth with frustrated hopes, ending ambiguously. Docu’s lensing, editing and score are all first-rate.

The Journey of Vaan Nguyen

Israel

Production

A Zygote Films production in association with Israel Broadcasting Authority. Produced by Yael Shavit. Directed by Duki Dror.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Philippe Bellaiche; editor, Dany Itzhaki; music, Haim Frank Ilfman. Reviewed at San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival, March 18, 2006. English, Vietnamese, Hebrew. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Hoiami Nguyen, Vaan Nguyen.
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