Viet Film Fest Announces Full Lineup for 2021 with Virtual, Theater, and Drive-In Screenings


Returning for its 12th edition, but first virtual experience, Viet Film Fest 2021 showcases a robust program that celebrates Vietnamese voices and stories in cinema

October 19, 2021 (Orange County, CA) – This press release has been updated to include a change in time and location for Walt Disney Animation Studios Raya and the Last Dragon from 7 pm PST at Westminster Mall to 5 pm PST at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, CA on Saturday, 10/30/2021. 

September 27, 2021 (Orange County, CA) Viet Film Fest 2021, presented by the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA)announces its full lineup for the 12th edition of the festival. Running October 15 – 30, 2021, the first-ever virtual return of Viet Film Fest will have access to national and international audiences through an online streaming platform in a movies-on-demand environment. This virtual edition of Viet Film Fest will provide increased opportunities for storytellers and audiences alike to experience independent film, engage in filmmaker Q&A panels, and connect with one another from the comforts of home. In addition to a vibrant virtual experience, there will be drive-in and theater screenings for select features following public health and safety guidelines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic mandates a reimagined Viet Film Fest but we hope that we have found ways for people to celebrate Vietnamese filmmaking based on their comfort level,” said Viet Film Fest 2021 Digital Director, Tony Nguyen. “As the largest international Vietnamese film festival outside of Vietnam, having a virtual platform this year will allow us to champion Vietnamese voices all over the world.” 

Among the films submitted, a curated collection of 16 features and 38 short films were selected for this year’s official lineup. Within the feature films being showcased in this year’s festival, six are North American premieres. The countries of production include Canada, France, Germany, Vietnam, Australia,  and the U.S., with English subtitles available.

“As Viet Film Fest 2021 staff, it has been a special privilege to bring back this celebration of Vietnamese and Vietnamese diasporic cinema after a year’s hiatus. In a time when no one was left untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic, the films in our lineup will hopefully entertain, enlighten, embolden, and ennoble you. For many of these films, a personal loss is central to their stories but in loss, we experience the fullness of our humanity and deepen the compassion we have for ourselves and that which we show to others,” said Viet Film Fest 2021 Artistic Director, Eric Nong.

The festival will open with the heartfelt romantic dramedy Goodbye Mother (Thưa Mẹ Con Đi). As Trinh Dinh Le Minh’s directorial debut, Goodbye Mother is a bold and compelling story that explores sexuality and family in contemporary Vietnam. Van (Lanh Thanh) returns to his hometown in the rural countryside for his father’s funeral. When he begins to date Ian (Vo Dien Gia Huy), Van must navigate desire and duty as he attempts to come out to his recently widowed mother (Hong Dao) and his unassuming family.

In celebrating Vietnamese voices and stories in cinema across multiple audiences, Viet Film Fest 2021 continues to host free, public screenings known as Community Day. Curated for high school students, Out of the Dark features five short films that speak to emotions and thoughts withheld, purposefully or not, by their characters or subjects. This can come in the form of pouring one’s feelings of loss through food (Savory), unrequited feelings (Blue Suit), or the underreported struggle of an ethnic minority family from Vietnam (Fighting for Family). Curated for senior citizens, Into the Light, features five short films that reveal lessons in empathy across all ages. Huỳnh Anh Duy’s Trading Card Season (Mùa Hình) harkens to childhood by reframing lessons learned long ago while Quận 13 by Hieu Gray explores the culinary delights of Paris, home to one of the largest and oldest Vietnamese communities in the world.

Following public health guidelines, Le Minh Hoang’s Saigon in the Rain (Sài Gòn Trong Cơn Mưa) will be screened in-person at the Frida Cinema in Santa Ana on October 16th, 2021.  Le’s romantic comedy tells the story of a talented musician (Avin Lu), who meets his first love (Ho Thu Anh), a woman full of life and mystery, on a rainy night in Saigon. All proceeds from this fundraiser screening will be donated to the Social Assistance Program for Viet Nam (SAP-VN), furthering their effort to provide COVID-19 relief in Vietnam. Amid rising Delta variant cases, infections, and deaths, Saigon continues to face overwhelmed hospitals, food shortages, and complete lockdown. Viet Film Fest 2021 is proud to support the Vietnamese community in the U.S., and abroad, through film. 

Documentaries continue to play an important part in this year’s Viet Film Fest. Be Water, directed by Bao Nguyen, explores Bruce Lee’s trailblazing impact and legacy. Told through archival footage and interviews with those who knew him best, an intimate portrayal of Lee’s life provides insight into his personal struggle for visibility as an Asian American in Hollywood. Other documentaries include Le My Cuong’s The Glorious Pain (Đoạn Trường Vinh Hoa), which follows a classical Vietnamese opera troupe struggling to survive, and Carol Nguyen’s emotionally complex family portrait No Crying at the Dinner Table.

Viet Film Fest 2021 will also offer an in-person screening at the Frida Cinema for Tran Thanh and Vu Ngoc Dang’s box office hit Dad, I’m Sorry (Bố Già), which debuted at the top of the U.S. specialty box office earlier this year and became the first Vietnamese-produced title to surpass the $1M mark. Bao Tran’s critically-acclaimed and action-packed kung fu comedy The Paper Tigers will be shown virtually and as a drive-in screening during the second half of the festival in late October. Closing out the festival is a drive-in screening of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Raya and the Last Dragon. A lone warrior, Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran), must track down the legendary last dragon to stop an evil force that has returned after 500 years to once again threaten her homeworld, Kumandra. Co-written by Qui Nguyen and starring Kelly Marie Tran, Viet Film Fest is proud to celebrate Southeast Asian representation in media.

Geo-location restrictions (“geofences”) for some film sets may apply. Tickets are subject to availability. All donations received will support Viet Film Fest’s mission to celebrate Vietnamese stories and voices in cinema. Visit www.vietfilmfest.com for more information. 

FEATURE FILMS INCLUDE:
140 LBS: How Beauty Killed My Mother – (United States)
Director: Sara Porkalob ​​ – Screenwriter: Susan Lieu – Producer: Susan Lieu
Synopsis: Two hours into surgery, Susan’s mother loses oxygen to her brain and the plastic surgeon deliberately does not call 9-1-1 for fourteen minutes. Five days later, while in a coma, she flatlines. The surgeon is charged with medical negligence and her family falls apart; no one talks about what happened. Nineteen years later on her wedding day, Susan’s mother’s seat sits empty and Susan realizes she can no longer ignore what she’s always wanted: to know who her mother was. Sifting through thousands of deposition pages and reaching out to the killer’s family, Susan uncovers the painful truth of her mother, herself, and the impossible ideal of Vietnamese feminine beauty.
Cast: Susan Lieu

Angel Sign – (Japan),  North American Premiere
Directors: Kamila Andini, Masatsugu Asahi, Tsukasa Hôjô, Nonzee Nimibutr, Ken Ochiai, Ham Trần – Screenwriters: Tsukasa Hôjô – Producer: Kato Yusei
Synopsis: Two musician lovers dream of composing a melody that will move the world.
Cast: Nao Matsushita, Dean Fujioka, Naoto Ogata, Momoko Kikuchi, Atomu, Praewpun Parnyim, Phiphob Kamolketsophon, Boonin Inleung, Ngo Quang Tuan, Xuan Van Nguyen, Jiro Sato, Sayaki Sakai, Neennara Boonbitpaisit, Mikako Yoshida, T. Rifnu Wikana, Abigail 

Be Water – (United States)
Director: Bao Nguyen – Producers: Julia Nottingham, Bao Nguyen, Gentry Kirby, Erin Leyden, Adam Neuhaus
Synopsis: Rejected by Hollywood, Bruce Lee returned to Hong Kong to complete four films. Charting his struggles in two worlds, Be Water explores questions of identity and representation through rare archives, intimate interviews, and his writings.
Cast: Linda Lee Cadwell, Shannon Lee, Robert Lee, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dan Inosanto

Dad, I’m Sorry (Bố Già) – (Vietnam), In-Person Screening at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, CA on Saturday, 10/16/2021 at 6 pm PST
Directors: Tran Thanh, Vu Ngoc Dang – Screenwriters: Tran Thanh, Kalei An Nhi, A Quay – Producers: Tran Thanh Town, HK Film, Galaxy Studio
Synopsis: Dad, I’m Sorry (Bố Già) tells the story about Ba Sang, a man in his 60s living in a low-income neighborhood in Saigon.
Cast: Tran Thanh, Tuan Tran, Giang Le, Ngoc Giau, Lan Phuong, Ngan Chi

Goodbye Mother (Thưa Mẹ Con Đi) – (Vietnam) 
Director: Trinh Dinh Le Minh – Screenwriter: Nhi Bui – Producers: Nguyen Mai Ka, Nguyen Luong Hang, Nhi Bui
Synopsis: Van (Lanh Thanh), the heir of a Vietnamese clan, returns home from the US for the first time in 9 years for the move of his father’s tomb. The whole family is surprised upon finding him going with a young Vietnamese American named Ian (Vo Dien Gia Huy). No one knows Ian is Van’s boyfriend and they plan to come out to Van’s widowed mother Mrs. Hanh (Hong Dao), who expects him to get married and have kids to fulfill the heir’s duties. To top it all, his grandmother (Nsut Le Thien), who has senile dementia, mistakes Ian for her grandson. While struggling to find the perfect occasion to come out, Van finds out instead that Mrs. Hanh is seriously ill.
Cast: Hong Dao, Lanh Thanh, Vo Dien Gia Huy, Nsut Le Thien

The Glorious Pain (Đoạn Trường Vinh Hoa)  – (Vietnam), North American Premiere
Director: Le My Cuong – Screenwriters: Le My Cuong, Nguyen Van Thanh – Producers: Ta Bich Loan
Synopsis: The Glorious Pain (Đoạn Trường Vinh Hoa) is a documentary film that features the journey of a small classical Vietnamese opera (Tuồng) troupe and one of the very few left, as they travel and perform through the Western Vietnam countryside. The troupe is on the verge of disbandment because the main artists were going through a hard time.
Cast: Phuong Anh

Dreamy Eyes (Mắt Biếc) – (Vietnam)
Director: Victor Vu – Screenwriters: Victor Vu, A-Type Machine – Producers: Cong Quoc Nguyen, Kay Nguyen
Synopsis: Based on the best-selling novel by Nguyen Nhat Anh, Dreamy Eyes (Mắt Biếc) tells the story of Ngan (Tran Nghia), who falls in love with Ha Lan (Truc Anh) when they were both 6 years old.
Cast: Tran Nghia, Truc Anh

Raya and the Last Dragon – (United States), In-Person Screening at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, CA on 10/30/2021 at 5 pm PST
Directors: Don Hall, Carlos López Estrada, Paul Briggs, John Ripa – Screenwriters: Qui Nguyen, Adele Lim – Producers: Peter Del Vecho, Osnat Shurer
Synopsis: In a realm known as Kumandra, a re-imagined Earth inhabited by an ancient civilization, a warrior named Raya (voiced by Kelly Marie Tran) is determined to find the last dragon.
Cast: Kelly Marie Tran, Thalia Tran, Sandra Oh, Izaac Wang, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Jona Xiao, Awkwafina 

Saigon in the Rain (Sài Gòn Trong Cơn Mưa) – (Vietnam), North American Premiere, SAP-VN Fundraiser for Covid-19 Relief in Vietnam at The Frida Cinema in Santa Ana, CA on Saturday, 10/16/2021 at 3 pm PST
Director: Le Minh Hoang – Screenwriters: Le Minh Hoang, Do Hoa Tra – Producers: Thuy Nguyen, Mai Nguyen, Trang Tran, Cao Thuy Nhi, Xa Dong Nghi
Synopsis: A talented musician (Avin Lu) meets a pragmatic woman (Ho Thu Anh)who puts his heart and dreams against the realities of earning a living in Saigon.
Cast: Avin Lu, Ho Thu Anh, Ho Thanh Trung, Ho Minh Ngoc, Viet Linh

Songs of Little Saigon – (United States)
Director: James Rael – Screenwriter: Tina Huynh – Producer: Anthony Rubino, Tina Huynh
Synopsis: This is a musical documentary, exploring the roots of Vietnamese American refugees, entreating the audience to experience their contribution to their culture.
Cast: Le Van Khoa, Nguyen Khanh Hong, Nguyen My Le, Le Toan, Nguyen Mai, Nguyen Chau, Pham Ha, Nguyen Dat

The Instrument of Murder (Trái Tim Quái Vật) – (Vietnam), North American Premiere
Director: Ta Nguyen Hiep – Screenwriters: Ta Nguyen Hiep, Nhat Banh, Quang Huy – Producer: Nguyen Quang Huy
Synopsis: A love-struck neighbor helps a single mom and her son go into hiding when she is pegged as the prime suspect of a homicide in their apartment complex. And as light is shed on the case, unsettling shadows emerge.
Cast: B Tran, Hoang Thuy Linh, Trinh Thang Binh, Hua Vi Van

The Nodey Process  – (France)
Directors: Maël Le-Hurand & Vincent Nguyen – Screenwriter: Pierre Tam-Anh Le-Khac – Producer: Maël Le-Hurand
Synopsis: The Nodey Process is a music documentary that captures how French-Vietnamese hip-hop and electro producer Don Pham “Nodey” Nguyễn Ngọc leverages his cultural roots and new artistic aspirations to reinvent his creative journey.
Cast: Don Pham Nguyễn, Nguyen Ngoc, Hang Lam Trang, Anh Phi Tran

The Paper Tigers  – (United States), Drive-In Screening at Westminster Mall on Saturday, 10/23/2021 at 7 pm PST
Director: Bao Tran – Screenwriter: Bao Tran  – Producers: Al’n Duong, Dan Gildark, Yuji Okumoto, Bao Tran, Michael Velasquez
Synopsis: As teenagers, kung fu disciples Danny (Alain Uy), Hing (Ron Yuan), and Jim (Mykel Shannon Jenkins) were inseparable. Fast forward 25 years and each has grown into a washed-up middle-aged man seemingly one kick away from pulling a hamstring—and not at all preoccupied with thoughts of martial arts or childhood best friends. But when their old master is murdered, the trio reunites, soon learning that avenging their sifu will require conquering old grudges (and a dangerous hitman still armed with ample knee cartilage) if they are to honorably defend his legacy.
Cast: Alain Uy, Ron Yuan, Jae Suh Park

The Rivers (Les Rivières)  – (France), North American Premiere
Director: Hua Thai Truc Mai – Screenwriter: Hua Thai Truc Mai – Producer: Superbytimai
Synopsis: Mai Hua, French-Vietnamese single mom with two children, brings back her dying grandmother to France. As she miraculously recovers, questions are raised on the family’s origins and a spell on women in the family. An intimate archeology of female lineage and the universal quest for one’s own truth.
Cast: Hua Thai Truc Mai

We Come into Life (Vào Đời) – (Vietnam)
Director: Siu Pham – Screenwriter: Siu Pham – Producer: Afshin Salamian
Synopsis: After the death of their parents, two teenagers realize that they are left to make their way in the world, alone.
Cast: Nguyen Phuong Linh, Ngo Xuan An, Ngo Tra Mi, Nguyen Xuan Son

What We Forgot to Remember (Người Cần Quên Phải Nhớ)  – (Vietnam), North Americam Premiere
Director: Do Duc Thinh – Screenwriter: George Ding – Producer: Charlie Nguyen
Synopsis: Loan is a hard-charging journalist who will stop at nothing to get her story. Single-minded and ambitious, she has put her career above all else, including love and family. After her father mysteriously dies at a mental asylum, Loan vows to uncover the truth.
Cast: Hoang Yen Chibi, Tran Ngoc Vang, Huyme, Karen Nguyen

OUT OF THE DARK SETLIST – CURATED FOR  HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Savory – (United States)
Director: Taylor Jordan – Screenwriter: Taylor Jordan – Producer: Taylor Jordan
Synopsis: While snowed in at her grandmother’s house, a girl reflects on her relationship with her grandmother shortly after her passing through a dish she rediscovers.
Cast: Grace Brower

Fighting for Family  – (United States, Vietnam)
Director: Lan Nguyen – Screenwriter: Lan Nguyen – Producer: Lan Nguyen
Synopsis: Fighting for Family captures the love story between a young family who faces countless challenges, yet continues to be hopeful, resilient, and joyful. The film discusses the U.S. imperialist war machine and the intergenerational harm that it inflicts, from the refugee flight to the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline, but also highlights the power of resilience and community resistance.
Cast: Rex Ny, Chuh A

The Promise  – (United Kingdom)
Director: Chi Thai – Screenwriters: Nicola Davies, Chi Thai – Producer: Chi Thai
Synopsis: The Promise is an urban fairy tale that plays out on the mean streets of a mean city. Here, a young thief tries to snatch an old woman’s bag but she cannot have it without giving something in return: The Promise. It is the beginning of a journey that will change her life and a chance to change the world for good.
Cast: Katie Leung

Blue Suit  – (United States)
Director: Kevin J. Nguyễn – Screenwriter: Kevin J. Nguyễn – Producer: Kevin J. Nguyễn, Jenine Pastores, Vu Hoang, Ace Underhill
Synopsis: John is a hopeless romantic with a mission to confess his feelings for his friend, Henry. However, Henry moves away the next day and a surprise going-away party foils John’s plans. Growing more anxious as the night progresses, John desperately tries to find alone time with Henry amidst all the unfamiliar faces competing for his attention. Between the deafening laughter, offhanded comments, and quiet sobbing, John is left wondering how and if he can still make his feelings known before the night is over.
Cast: Ivan Mok, Andrew Ge, Jason Lee Dennis

Malabar – (France)
Director: Maximilian Badier Rosenthal – Screenwriter: Maximilian Badier Rosenthal – Producer: Yannick Beauquis
Synopsis: At night as they return home to the suburbs, Mourad and Harrison accidentally bump into Marcel, an old man of Vietnamese origin.
Cast: Harrison Mpaya, Hiep Tran Nghia, Mourad Boudaoud

INTO THE LIGHT SETLIST – CURATED FOR SENIORS
Quận 13 – (United States, France)
Director: Hieu Gray – Screenwriter: Hieu Gray – Producer: Hieu Gray
Synopsis: Quận 13 explores the Vietnamese diaspora in Paris told through the lens of food.
Cast: Hieu Gray

Trading Card Season (Mùa Hình) – (Vietnam)
Director: Huỳnh Anh Duy – Screenwriter: Huỳnh Anh Duy – Producer: Bùi Khánh Duy
Synopsis: Every outdoor game for kids in Saigon has its season: The marbles season, the figure-toy season, the plastic-coin season…And in one special season, Bi – a 12-year-old boy – has learned one of his biggest lessons in life.
Cast: Nguyễn Viết Minh Tiến, Lâm Thành Anh Quân, Hong Bich Thi Vu, An Duy V

Fresh Peaches – (United States)
Director: Lana Nguyen – Screenwriter: Lana Nguyen – Producer: Cameron Kostopoulos
Synopsis: Binh and his Grandmother are two Vietnam War refugees struggling to assimilate into America. One day, they are doing their weekly grocery shopping when Grandmother is accused of stealing a tube of lipstick. Little do they know, the lipstick had mistakenly fallen into Grandma’s purse minutes early. The instigator, a white woman, named Mrs. Allen, asserts her accusation upon the grocery store shoppers until a cashier is forced to check Grandma’s purse. There, he finds the lipstick. Caught in a tense misunderstanding, Binh must navigate his way out of this heated altercation to protect himself and his grandmother, while preserving his dignity and Vietnamese Pride
Cast: Tom Dang, Tiffany Rothman, JC Henning, Andy Pesoa, & Venessa Verdugo

Nostalgia  – (United States)
Director: McFloyd Nguyen – Screenwriter: McFloyd Nguyen – Producer: Nhat Tien
Synopsis: Tam Vu, a retired photographer, clings himself onto a rundown pho joint where he believes that the essence of his deceased wife would still remain with him, as long as the shop is open. This ultimately puts a strain on his relationship with his son Lam, the only bridge that connects him to reality.
Cast: Nam Quoc Le, Vo Huy Gia Dien, Ngoc Anh Luong

Malabar – (France)
Director: Maximilian Badier Rosenthal  – Screenwriter: Maximilian Badier Rosenthal – Producer: Yannick Beauquis
Synopsis: At night as they return home to the suburbs, Mourad and Harrison accidentally bump into Marcel, an old man of Vietnamese origin.
Cast: Harrison Mpaya, Hiep Tran Nghia, Mourad Boudaoud

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ABOUT VIET FILM FEST
Viet Film Fest was created in 2003 by the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA), becoming its largest program. As the largest international Vietnamese film festival of its kind in the world, Viet Film Fest showcases the best creative work by and about Vietnamese people. Through the universal language of film, Viet Film Fest brings together multiple perspectives to expand the scope and horizons of Vietnamese cinema. Our award-winning films have been screened in numerous cities and countries. For over a decade, the festival has attracted thousands of national and international attention for its stunning showcase of shorts and features submitted from all over the world. As the hub of the Vietnamese movie industry, the festival hosts networking opportunities with prominent directors, media experts, and producers, including Tran Anh Hung (The Scent of Green Papaya), Tony Bui (Three Seasons), Ham Tran (Journey from the Fall), Victor Vu (Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass), Le Van Kiet (Furie), and Charlie Nguyen (The Rebel).

VIET FILM FEST 2021
October 15-30, 2021
Program Schedule and Tickets: https://vietfilmfest2021.eventive.org/welcome
Follow @vietfilmfest on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube

ABOUT VIETNAMESE AMERICAN ARTS AND LETTERS ASSOCIATION
Founded in 1991, the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is a community-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that seeks to connect and enrich communities through Vietnamese arts and culture. Learn more at vaala.org or join @vaalacommunity on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

Viet Film Fest 2021 Assets:
Press/Media Accreditation
Logo & Artwork
Features and Community Screening Film Stills
Official Viet Film Fest Trailer

Viet Film Fest 2021 Press Contact:
Minh Pham 
Public Relations Manager
press@vaala.org 

Karen Wood 
Public Relations Manager
karenwood@vaala.org