Forgetting Vietnam

Directed, Written & Edited by
Production and Photography




90mins, Digital, 2015



Trinh T. Minh-ha 
Trinh T. Minh-ha and Jean-Paul Bourdier
The Six Tones and ĐOI Music.

ACC Gwangju, Korea & HKW Berlin,Germany      





Vietnam in ancient times was named đất nứớc vạn xuân – the land of ten thousand springs. One of the myths surrounding the creation of Vietnam involves a fight between two dragons whose intertwined bodies fell into the South China Sea and formed Vietnam’s curving ‘S’ shaped coastline. Legend also has it that Vietnam’s ancestors were born from the union of a Dragon King, Lạc Long Quân and a fairy, Âu Cơ. Âu Cơ was a mythical bird that swallowed a handful of earthly soil and consequently lost the power to return to the 36th Heaven. Her tears formed Vietnam’s myriad rivers and the country’s recurring floods are the land’s way of remembering her. In her geo-political situation, Vietnam thrives on a fragile equilibrium between land and water management. A life-sustaining power, water is evoked in every aspect of the culture.

Shot in Hi-8 video in 1995 and in HD and SD in 2012, the images unfold spatially as a dialogue between the two elements—land and water—that underlie the formation of the term “country” (đất nứớc). Carrying the histories of both visual technology and Vietnam’s political reality, these images are also meant to feature the encounter between the ancient as related to the solid earth, and the new as related to the liquid changes in a time of rapid globalization. In conversation with these two parts is a third space, that of historical and cultural re-memory – or what local inhabitants, immigrants and veterans remember of yesterday’s stories to comment on today’s events. Through the insights of these witnesses to one of America’s most divisive wars, Vietnam’s specter and her contributions to world history remain both present and all too easy to forget. Touching on a trauma of international scale, Forgetting Vietnam is made in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the end of the war and of its survivors.


Festivals: Cinéma du Réel, Paris (France 2016); more forthcoming


Night Passage

Produced and Directed by
Written & Edited by
Production and Lighting Design
Director of Photography
Line Producer & Production Manager
Art Director
Music by*  




98mins, Digital, 2004



Trinh T. Minh-ha and Jean-Paul Bourdier
Trinh T. Minh-ha
Jean-Paul Bourdier
Kathleen Beeler
Erica Marcus & Rony Gerzberg
Brent Kanbayashi
The Construction of Ruins with Greg Goodman, George Cremaschi and Dave Slusser
Yuan Li-Chi 
Denice Lee 
Joshua Miller 
Vernon Bush 
Howard Dillon 
Luis Saguar


Night Passage is a digital film on friendship and death. Made in homage to Miyazawa Kenji's classic novel, Milky Way Railroad, the story evolves around the spiritual journey of a young woman, in the company of her best friend and a little boy, into a world of rich in-between realities. Their venture into and out of the land of "awakened dreams" occurs during a long ride on a night train. The filmmaker elegantly depicts each encounter in two-dimensional space with a unique artistic gesture and ingeniously frames the passage as a series of rhythmic image sequensces as seen through the window of a train.

"Fabulous dreamscapes combining the whimsy of childhood imagination and the sensuality and eeriness of adult fantasies and nightmares." -- Visual Communications Filmfest 2004

"The strange spaces of Night Passage are urban and metallic, with wet pools, like an underground labyrinth... in brilliant colors and deep night shadows: we dance deaths' movements as it tumbles, rifts, shivers, whirls." -- Katherine Mezur

"Trinh Minh-ha consistently challenges her audiences with each work, constantly shifting the ways in which she critically engages with the form and spirit of cinema." -- Irina Leimbacher, San Francisco Cinematheque

"Spectacularly shot in video... The netherworld between life and death is viewed as a place of light, shadow, movement and uncertain ideas in Night Passage... a majestic sense of subconscious." -- Variety

"A tableaux-rich, transcultural film... this experimental narrative work continues [Trinh's] knack for consistently unsettling audiences." -- Asian American Film Festival

FestivalsImage Forum Film Festival, Tokyo (Japan 2005); Tapei Artist Village (Taiwan 2005)
Senef Film Festival, Seoul (Korea 2004);
The Shanghai Art Biennale (China 2004);
The Busan Art Biennale 2004, Busan (Korea 2004);
The Asian American Int'l Film Festival, New York (USA 2004 and national tour);
The 10th Annual Performance Studies Int' l Conference (Singapore 2004);
Visual Communication Los Angeles Asian Festival (USA 2004);
Women in the Director's Chair, Chicago (USA 2004)



The Fourth Dimension

Produced by
Directed, Written & Edited by
Music by





87 mins, Digital, 2001


Jean-Paul Bourdier
Trinh T. Minh-ha
The Construction of Ruins with Greg Goodman, and Shoko Hikage.


Today, when one goes on a journey, the travel is ritualized through the visual machine. The image, coming alive in time as it frames time, is there where the actual and virtual meet. In the process of ritualizing Japan's "hundred flowers," it is the encounter between self and other, human and machine, viewer and image, fact and fancy that determines the field of relations in which new interactions between past and present are made possible. Shown in their widespread functions and manifestations, including more evident loci such as festival, religious rite and theatrical performance, "rituals" involve not only the regularity in the structure of everyday life, but also the dynamic agents in the ongoing process of creating digital images at the speed of light.

"Striking visual compositions and juxtapositions and a stunning soundtrack. As we watch and listen to this provocative and meditative piece, we, too, become 'attentive to the infraordinary - an intrusion of eternity.'" -- I. Leimbacher, The San Francisco Cinematheque

"Her tack finds great visual pleasure in the everday, composing and decomposing the social landscape, while construction a poetic grid of temporalities, symbolic meanings, and rituals. Trinh's lyrical narration guides us through 'Japan's likeness,' the perfected framing of the sacramental familiar." -- S. Seid, Pacific Film Archive 

"[The Fourth Dimension] functions as a recurrent melody, appealing to all the senses." -- Locarno Film Festival



A Tale of Love

Produced and Directed by
Written & Edited by
Production and Lighting Design
Line Producer & Production Manager
Director of Photography
Music by*



108 mins, 1995 



Trinh T. Minh-ha and Jean-Paul Bourdier
Trinh T. Minh-ha
Jean-Paul Bourdier
Erica Marcus
Kathleen Beeler
The Construction of Ruins (Greg Goodman, J.A. Deane)
Mai Huynh
Juliette Chen
Dominic Overstreet
Mai Le Ho
Kieu Loan


Portraying the Vietnamese immigrant experience through Kieu, A Tale of Love follows the quest of a woman in love with Love. Voyeurism runs through the history of narrative and is here one of the threads that structure the film. Playing with the fiction of love in love stories, the film invites a different experience of cinema with non-naturalistic acting and layered interaction of performed reality, memory and imagination.

A Tale of Love is loosely based on The Tale of Kieu, the Vietnamese national poem of love, written in the early 19th century, which tells of the misfortunes of Kieu, a martyred woman who sacrificed her "purity" and prostituted herself for the good of her family. The poem has become a metaphor for the often-invaded Vietnam. Director Trinh's transformation of The Tale of Kieu into contemporary American life unfolds [with] the modern-day Kieu, caught between two cultures and torn between economic necessity and sensuality, also has to find the path of her own desire while selling the image of her body and encountering the "tales of love" of the people around her. -- from the Asian Art Museum catalog

The film also works with a subtly "denaturalized" space of acting. In the way the shots and the dialogues are carried out, both spectators and actors share the discomfort of voyeurism: the unnaturalness of those who "look without being looked at" ( i.e. the makers, the spectators) versus the self-consciousness of those who "know they are being looked at while they are being watched" (i.e. the actors). -- Filmmaker's statement

"Unique contribution to the cinema. Trinh's experiment... captures the unadulterated and elemental sensations that characterize a state of being in Love. The film presents to its audience partial views, saturated colors, elliptical narratives... A Tale of Love is a film that must be savored." -- Deb Verhoeven, World Art

"Nothing else around is even remotely like it... beautiful... aggressive music score and oddly contrapuntal mise en scene... At times a frankly erotic film that interrogates its own eroticism, it challenges the audience as well with its acting styles." -- Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

"Trinh T. Minh-ha uses an elegant, delicate form of ellipse... to unfold the multilayered meanings of 'love'... A Tale of Love opens new vistas for formal and cultural experimentation." -- Bernice Reynaud, Cinemaya

"A sometimes lighthearted, always sensual look at the state of being in love.... Both the visual techniques and soundtrack become important statements in and of themselves. The camera often seems a step removed from the actors, and often, like the dynamic primary-colored lighting can take on a narrative life of its own." -- Angie Chuang, The Times

"A Tale of Love transgresses the borders between narrative film and experimental film.... Kieu makes me think of a 'character zone'... it's undescribable, and it makes you want to see the film again and re-experience the cracks and fissures in narrative and character." -- Gwendolyn Foster, Film Criticism

Festivals: Toronto Festival of Festivals (Canada 95); Berlin International Film Festival (Germany 96); San Francisco Asian American Film Festival (USA 96); Film Fest New Haven (Connecticut, USA 96); Mostra Internacional de Films de Dones de Barcelona (Spain 96); Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (USA 96); Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (Taiwan 96); Umea International Film Festival (Sweeden 96); Feminale Women's Film Festival (Koln, Germany 96); Atlanta Image Film Festival (USA 97);  Southeast Asian Film Festival (Vancouver, Canada 97)



Shoot for the Contents 

Directed, Written & Edited by  
Production and Lighting Designer




102 mins, 1991



Trinh T. Minh-ha 
Jean-Paul Bourdier
Kathleen Beeler & Trinh T. Minh-ha
Ying Lee
Dewi Yee
Wu Tian Ming
Clairmonte Moore


The film, whose title plays on the meanings of an ancient Chinese game and on the creative elements of filmmaking, is an excursion into the maze of allegorical naming. It ponders questions of power and change as related to the contemporary shifts of culture and politics in China, and as refracted by the Tiennamen Square event.

"One of the most extraordinary documentaries of recent years and a major creative intervention on the conventions of the genre... a complex meditation on questions of power, change, politics and culture, weaving the points of view of both insiders and outsiders engaged in many different areas of social and artistic activity... A beautiful and moving film, as challenging and stimulating formally as it is politically." -- London Film Festival

"Politics, poetry are 'contents' of her work. Trinh T. Minh-ha's heartfelt and carefully cultivated approach to life and art is displayed, like tattoos, all over her award-winning body of work." -- Jeff Kaliss, The Oakland Tribune

"You don't catch the vital spirit of things in formal likeness, says one of Trinh's narrators. The ancient Chinese philosopher who first uttered these words could have been describing the director's own style of filmmaking. Her subtle informality succeeds where others have failed in understanding China. Trinh transcends politics, history and culture, creating a film every bit as complex, mysterious and intriguing as China itself." -- Andrew Leonard, The Daily Californian

Festivals: Yamagata, Japan; Sydney, Australia; Creteil, France; Bombay, India; Rotterdam, Netherlands; Melbourne, Australia; London; Madrid, Spain; Mannheim, Germany; Jerusalem; Asian American; AFI, Los Angeles

Awards: Jury's Best Cinematagraphy Awards, 1992 Sundance Film Festival; Golden Athena, Best Experimental Feature Documentary, Athens Film Festival



Surname Viet Given Name Nam

Directed, Written & Edited by
Producer, Production & Lighting Designer


108 mins, 1989


Trinh T. Minh-ha
Jean-Paul Bourdier
Kathleen Beeler
Khien Lai
Ngo Kim Nhuy
Tran Thi Bich Yen
Tran Thi Hien
Lan Trinh


The film evolves around questions of identity, popular memory and culture. While focusing on aspects of Vietnamese reality as seen through the lives and history of women resistance in Vietnam and in the U.S, it raises questions on the politics of interviewing and documenting.

"A challenging and rewarding work that places Trinh T. Minh-ha as one of the leading American independent filmmakers of the 80's." -- New Directors/New Films

"Independent in thought and delicate in craftmanship, the film is strung with the tensile strength of piano wire." -- Karen Jaehne, Film Comment

"Most movies function on only one level, and that level is generally located below the waist and above the knees. Seldom do modern films venture north, toward the heart or, less likely, into the head. This is dangerous, unchartered territory, not found on the maps of most moviemakers. Surname Viet Given Name Nam is a film made with emotional confidence and intellectual nerve, a documentary that questions the nature of documentaries, a history that uses the testimony of poetry, a polemic that appeals to the heart." -- Gabriel Gabrenya, Dispatch Film Critic

"raw, sensual and emotional" -- Jeff Kaliss, The San Francisco Chronicle

"Keenly intelligent, sensuously multilayered... Emotionally, Surname Viet Given Name Nam leaves you with an impression of the courage and persistent strength of Vietnamese women, not in terms of propaganda-poster heroics but on the human level." -- Stuart Klawans, The Nation

"Offering every woman as Antigone, this is the most dignified Vietnam film yet." -- A. White, Film Comment

Festivals: New Directors/New Films; Toronto Festival of Festivals; Los Angeles (Filmex); Creteil, France; Vancouver; Asian Pacific; Taipei Women's Film; London; Jerusalem; Bombay; Sao Paulo; Sydney; Melbourne; Hawaii

Awards: First-Prize Blue Ribbon, American Film Festival; First-Prize Film As Art, SECA, San Francisco; Merit Award, Bombay Film Festival



Naked Spaces - Living is Round

Produced by
Directed, Written & Edited by



135 mins, 1985


Jean-Paul Bourdier
Trinh T. Minh-ha


A film on the poetics of dwelling and on the relation between houses and cosmos in West Africa. “Naked Spaces surveys the integration of ritual and work, the home and the world.... Each dwelling has its own blend of environmental logic and irrational splendor....the film is nonlinear, decentered and deliberately unsettling.” (Jim Hoberman, The Village Voice)

"A graceful, epic meditation on people and their living spaces in six countries of West Africa, this majestic film unfolds poetically around three intricately intertwined voices that provide different, but interactive interpretations. A cinematic journeys that provokes critical political questions about perceiving and representing Third World cultures." -- Susan Ditta, The National Gallery of Canada

"...every moment of unsmoothness presents a gap, almost a kind of wound, a moment in which the inevitably consistent rhythm of 24-frame-per-second film projection is broken, and consequently, a place at which the film's style can open itself to an observation of the outer world... a film that reverberates between its subject matter and its cinematic form, and that challenges each of us to examine the ways in which we think about looking at films, and other cultures, and at ourselves." -- Fred Camper, Chicago Reader

"a lyrical, beautiful, engrossing and provacative film" -- Jenny Perlin, San Francisco Cinematheque

"A sensuous and philosphical journey... Exquisitely photographed, rich in detail and texture, this film is not essentially a documentary though it contains elements of documentation. It acts, rather, as a counter-documentary, throwing into question our formulas for the relationship between fact and truth." -- Robert Anbian, Film Arts Festival

"beautiful and instructive, a duet between filmmaker and subject, disclosures and enclosures, which remains perpetually fresh and unpredictable over the film's (length)." -- Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

Festivals: Whitney Musuem of Art, Biennial Exhibition; Toronto Festival of Festivals; San Francisco Film Festival; Edinburgh Film Festival (UK); Jerusalem Film Festival; Vancouver Film Festival

Awards: Golden Athena, Best Feature Documentary, Athens International Film Festival; First Prize Blue Ribbon, American Film Festival




Directed, Written, Edited by
Produced by



40 mins, 1982


Trinh T. Minh-ha 
Jean-Paul Bourdier


A reflection on filming in rural Senegal and a critique of the anthropological I/eye. The film “denotes something more than an exceptional spirit of observation; let’s say by all means a kind of amorous enthrallment” -- Alberto Moravia, L’Expresso

"With uncanny eloquence, Reassemblage distills sounds and images of Senegalese villagers and their surroundings to reconsider the premises of ethnographic filmmaking. By disjunctive editing and a probing narration, this 'documentary' strikingly counterpoints the authoritative stance of the National Geographic approach." -- Laura Thielen

"Superbly crafted and visually exquisite... In its form and content, it critiques both western science and documentary traditions"  -- Pat Aufderheide, The Village Voice

"sweetly weird... in questioning all the presumption of ethnographic filmmaking" -- Jim Hoberman, The Village Voice

"captures a glimpse of beauty and death without wallowing in the scenic exoticism so fatal to the National Geographic format" -- Kathleen Hulser, The Independent

"a work (that) carries a critique of its own pronouncements and challenges any investment in pompous profundities" -- Barbara Kruger, Art Forum

Festivals: New York Film Festival; Asian American Film Festival Humboldt (Honorable Mention); Festival Dei Popoli, Florence; Tyneside Film Festival (UK); Hong Kong Film Festival


Production and Lighting Design

Jean-Paul Bourdier




The Construction of Ruins with Greg Goodman




Arsenal, Institute for Film and Video Art
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