“Inside Vietnamese American Filmmaking”

Featuring (in alphabetical order): Tony Bui, Jenni Trang Le, Le-Van Kiet, Charlie Nguyen, Ham Tran, and Victor Vu

When: Sunday, Nov. 11, 2007
3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Where: Viet Art Center
12965 Historic Main Street, Garden Grove, CA 92840
Contact: VAALA (714) 893-6145
Email: ; Website:

The Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is hosting a film panel entitled “Inside Vietnamese American Filmmaking,” featuring  some of the most talented Vietnamese American filmmakers (in alphabetical order):  Tony Bui, Jenni Trang Le, Le-Van Kiet, Charlie Nguyen, Ham Tran, and Victor Vu.  The panel will focus on different aspects of filmmaking “behind-the-scenes” including idea development, script or screenwriting, casting, production and shooting, and marketing and distribution.  Mariam Lam, Ph.D. (UC Riverside) and Tu-Uyen Nguyen, Ph.D. (CSU Fullerton) will co-moderate the panel and audience members will be invited to dialogue with the panelists.  The film panel is sponsored by CSUF and Farmers Insurance Group.

The film panel is being held in conjunction with the Smithsonian Exhibition “Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon,” which is sponsored by California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) at the Viet Art Center in Garden Grove, California until Sunday, Dec. 2.  This exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to learn about the challenges, contributions and advancement of the Vietnamese-American community from 1975 to present-day.  For more information on the exhibition, please click on and .

Filmmakers’ Bio

Tony Bui – Writer/director/producer

Tony Bui graduated from Loyola Marymount University with his short film YELLOW LOTUS, winner of over 15 national/international film festival awards.  Shortly after, he was invited to attend the highly acclaimed Sundance Institute Screenwriting and Directing Labs at the age of 23.
Bui made his feature film debut as writer and director of THREE SEASONS (starring Harvey Keitel), winner of the Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award and Best Cinematography Award at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, marking the first time in Sundance’s history that the same film won both the Grand Jury and Audience Award.  THREE SEASONS was also selected for Official Competition at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival, and received two Independent Spirit Award Nominations the following year, including Best First Film.  THREE SEASONS was the first American film to shoot entirely in Vietnam.
Bui also co-wrote and produced GREEN DRAGON (starring Patrick Swayze and Forest Whitaker).  GREEN DRAGON premiered in Competition at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, and was a recipient of a 2001 Humanitas Award.  Bui has also written and directed national commercials, most recently for the new Pepsi/Mt Dew campaign.  Bui is currently writing and directing the feature film THE WALK for HBO, with Ted Hope and Anne Carey producing.  Bui serves on the Board of Directors of Film Independent and currently resides in Los Angeles.

Jenni Trang Le – Writer/director/producer)
Jenni Trang Le graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UCLA.  In 1999, she began crafting stories in performance art and cultural debauchery with Club O’ Noodles, a Vietnamese American theatre troupe.  This led to her involvement with the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) and the Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF) in 2003.
In 2003, Le worked on Ham Tran’s JOURNEY FROM THE FALL as the office coordinator.  After that, she has been involved in numerous film productions as talent liaison and associate producer of HOLLY(2003, directed by Guy Moshe), a film about child prostitution in the gritty reality of Cambodia.  She has also held the role as first assistant director of FINDING MADISON (2005, directed by Tuan Tran), OWL AND THE SPARROW (2006, directed by Stephane Gauger) and, most recently, the action romance period film THE REBEL (2006, directed by Charlie Nguyen).  In January 2007, Le received the Armed with a Camera Fellowship through Visual Communications where she wrote, directed and animated a 5-minute claymation entitled OH MOMMY! (Mẹ Ơi!).  OH MOMMY! was Le’s directorial debut and she is proud to flow within the creative waters of the new Viet Film Wave, weaving stories and interlacing visuals that touch the soul.

Le-Van Kiet (writer/director)
Le-Van Kiet was born in Vietnam. He and his family were part of the Second Wave of Boat People who risked their lives to immigrate to the United States in 1982 when he was two years old.  Kiet received a grant from the UCLA School of Film and Television, which is awarded to the best student film in his class, for his short film THE SILENCE.  DUST OF LIFE is the product of a three year journey and marks Le-Van Kiet’s first feature film debut.  DUST OF LIFE was selected to conclude Vietnamese International Film Festival 2007.  The film was recently screened at Austin Film Festival in October 2007.  It will be released theatrically in Spring 2008.

Charlie Nguyen – Producer/writer/director
Charlie Nguyen began his career producing and directing hundreds of music videos, sitcoms, short films, documentaries and live concerts in various cities worldwide.  He is well-known in the Vietnamese-American entertainment industry for his work with Van Son Entertainment.  His notable documentaries include THE OLD LOVER (Người Tình Già, 2002), about musician Phạm Duy, and well-received Japan and Australia installments of a documentary series on different Asian nations.
Nguyen and his own team of filmmakers also created Cinema Pictures from the ground up in 1992. Their first feature, HÙNG VƯƠNG THE 18TH (1994), written and directed by Nguyen, was independently funded and set the tone for exciting pictures that infused history, martial arts and drama. His film credits also include CHANCES ARE (2002, director/writer), FINDING MADISON (2005, producer) and the hit release THE REBEL (Dòng Máu Anh Hùng) (2007, director/co-writer/producer/editor).  THE REBEL received the Grand Jury Award at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, 2007 and the Best Audience Choice Award at the Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF), 2007.
He is currently touring film festivals with THE REBEL, distributed by The Weinstein Company, and is in development with The Weinstein Company on other potential film projects.

Ham Tran – Producer/writer/director
Ham Tran graduated from UCLA with a master’s degree in film and television.  His short films have won numerous accolades, including the National Finalist for the Student Academy Awards for two years-in-a-row for his short films THE PRESCRIPTION and POMEGRANATE.  Tran’s thesis film THE ANNIVERSARY won over 30 international awards, including the prestigious USA Film Festival award for Best Short Film.  In 2004, THE ANNIVERSARY was a Semi-Finalist for the Academy Awards for Best Live Action Short.
Tran’s first feature debut “Journey from the Fall” world-premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and has garnered over 10 awards in worldwide film festivals. Imaginasian Entertainment releases the film theatrically in Spring 2007.            The DVD of JOURNEY FROM THE FALL is now available at Blockbuster Online, Netflix and

Victor Vu – Writer/director
Victor Vu was born and raised in Southern California and received his bachelor’s degree in film production at Loyola Marymount University.  His thesis project, a short film entitled FIRECRACKER won the Short Film Award at the Newport Beach International Film Festival as well as the Student Showcase Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival.  Vu spent the next six years working in Visual Effects for Sony Pictures Imageworks and Eastman Kodak’s Cinesite Digital Studios, on such films as STARSHIP TROOPERS, CONTACT, and X-MEN 2.
In 2002, he formed the company, Strange Logic Entertainment, with producing partner Philip Silverman.  Vu’s feature film debut, FIRST MORNING (Buổi Sáng Đầu Năm), received the Best Feature Film Award at the San Diego Asian Film Festival and was released by Illuminare Entertainment in 2005.  His second feature film, a supernatural thriller entitled OAN HỒN (Spirits), about which Kevin Thomas of the L.A. Times labeled “an exquisite ghost story; a unique and powerful film.”  This film premiered at numerous film festivals including the Bangkok International Film Festival, Singapore International Film Festival, Fantasia Montreal and was distributed by MonteCristo International.
Most recently, Vu’s production company, in association with the MonteCristo Fund LLC, completed the first episode of MYSTERIOUS WORLD (Thế Giới Huyền Bí), an anthology series of supernatural stories created by Vu. Vu is currently developing THE INFORMER, an action/thriller set in Vietnam.


Mariam Lam, Ph.D., is a professor of literature, media & cultural studies, and Southeast Asian studies at the UC Riverside. She specializes in Southeast Asian and Asian American literature, film, popular culture, gender and sexuality, translation, tourism and community politics.  She is currently finishing her book project, “Surfin’ Vietnam: Trauma, Memory, and Cultural Politics in Literature and Film,” which analyzes cultural production and community politics within and across Vietnam, France, and the United States.  She has taught at UC Irvine and Loyola Marymount University prior to UCR.

Tu-Uyen Nguyen, Ph.D., was born in Vietnam, but left with her family by boat in 1979.  She is currently a professor in the Asian American Studies Program at Cal State Fullerton.  She received her masters and Ph.D. degrees in public health from UCLA and works closely with various Asian and Pacific Islander communities nationwide on collaborative health programs focusing on cancer education and linguistic and cultural competency.  Tu-Uyen has been involved in organizing the Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF) since the first installment in 2003.

Participating Organizations
State Fullerton (CSUF)
Cal State Fullerton is a dynamic, vibrant public university that proudly celebrates 50 years of service to the diverse people, culture and economy of Southern California.  “U.S. News & World Report” lists Cal State Fullerton among its “Top Public Universities,” ranking it among the top 10 of the nation’s “Top Public Universities-Master’s” institutions in the West.  As of fall 2007, a total of 37,130 students are enrolled at Cal State Fullerton.  It continues to aspire to combine the best qualities of teaching and research universities where actively engaged students, faculty and staff work in close collaboration to expand knowledge.

Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA)
Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1991 by a group of Vietnamese-American journalists, artists and friends.  VAALA’s mission is to support artists to enrich Vietnamese arts and culture. VAALA creates opportunities for artists to interact with their audience, and facilitates dialogue among different ethnic groups through various forms of art.  VAALA has served thousands of audience members through many activities such as exhibitions, performances, recitals, symposiums, panel discussions and the biennial Vietnamese International Film Festival (ViFF).   VAALA’s events have been extensively covered by local, national and international press.  VAALA is a member of Arts Orange County.

Viet Art Center (VAC)
Viet Art Center (VAC) serves as a community art center to support contemporary artists engaging in all forms of cultural arts. Our mission is to preserve and advance Vietnamese arts and culture; foster creativity and excellence; provide exhibition space to new and established artists; promote educational programs and activities that encourage public awareness, participation, and appreciation of arts and culture. VAC is a unique bridge to foster improved friendship and economic ties between Vietnamese-American communities and American communities.


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