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Index of 2006

An Inconvenient Truth
Big Bad Swim
Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Departed
The DaVinci Code
Eron: The Smartest
Guys in the Room

Good Night and
Good Luck

Half Nelson
History of Violence
Hotel Rwanda
Little Miss Sunshine
Journey from the Fall
March of the Penguins
Million Dollar Baby
Prairie Home Companion
Star Wars III:
Revenge of the Sith

Thank You for Smoking
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
The Sea Inside
United 93
War of the Worlds
Walk the Line
World Trade Center

Journey from the Fall

Film Synopsis: Set during the thirteenth anniversay of the Vietnam War. Tells the epic story of a family who is painfully torn apart by the war, forced to emigrate across a dangerous sea, reunited and struggling to survive.

Have you ever entered into conversation with a Vietnamese person concerning his or her journey to this country? I have. Undoubtedly, if you talk to someone who left Vietnam in the late 1970’s or 1980’s, their story is amazing. Their journeys were frequently terrifying stories of hardship and peril. I have great admiration for their faith, courage, and determination.

Director Ham Tran wanted to tell the story of the plight of the Vietnamese after the fall of Saigon. Although we have had many fine films about the American experience in Vietnam and its aftermath, there have been no films to tell the story from the Vietnamese perspective. Many American movies have featured Vietnamese characters, but always in secondary roles. Tran’s Journey from the Fall is the first to focus on the Vietnamese side of the story, using Vietnamese actors speaking their own language.

Journey from the Fall focuses on one Vietnamese family: the Nguyens. The film begins with the familiar scene of the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. The last helicopter is departing with the last Americans from the roof of the U.S. Embassy. The Nguyen family (father Long, mother Mai, young son Lai and grandmother Ba Noi) remain in Saigon. Soon Long is captured and placed in a “re-education” camp, run by the victorious Communists. The family decides that it is safer for the rest of the family to try to escape the country on a boat. Long will join them when he can.

What follows is almost unbearably sad and tragic. Long is courageous in his captivity, despite beatings and periods of time in solitary confinement. Mai, Ba, and Lai are able to escape the country, along with many other women and children, on a crowded fishing boat. They endure many hardships. The crowded boat develops engine trouble, becomes lost, and is pillaged by pirates (nothing like the Disney pirates). The first half of the film is about the efforts of the separated family to survive and escape to safety in America. These scenes of suffering and violence are rightly disturbing, and, at times, very difficult to watch. Yet the scenes are never exploitative, or shown for cheap thrills, as in many action/horror movies.

The second half of the film follows the family to Southern California. The end of their physical contains new hardships for the Nguyens, as they try to assimilate into American society. Most disconcerting is their feeling that they must immediately let go of the past. While other cultural groups are encouraged to talk about their culture and homeland, the Nguyens and their friends feel that they cannot, except among themselves. When Lai gets into trouble in school, his principal lectures him on the hardships his grandparents endured when they came over from Ireland. The insensitive principal neither knows or cares about Lai’s story.

At 135 minutes, Journey from the Fall is a long and often difficult film to watch. Viewer concentration is necessary, especially in the first half which is all in Vietnamese. The production values in general are very good. However, the film still seems rough at times, especially in the transition scenes. Yet, Journey from the Fall is an important film, not only for Vietnamese, but for all of us. It is important in that it tells a story that so few of us know. In this way, Journey is like Roots or Schindler’s List, telling the stories of a people, their suffering, and their voyage to a new land. It is a testimony to the courage and faith of those people.

Journey from the Fall ends with a sign of hope: the family comes together to fly a kite which they constructed from newspapers. It is their way of remembering a similar kite-flying moment on a holiday back in Vietnam. As in their native land, they ritualize their commitment to one another, despite their many hardships and losses.

Ham Tran’s screenplay was written after extensive interviews with Vietnamese families. He reports that the film was entirely financed by the Vietnamese-American community, most of whom had never invested in a film before. Like Tran, they knew they needed to tell their story.

After successful screenings at film festivals, Journey from the Fall is looking for a wider release in theaters early next year. I hope it gets the release and attention it richly deserves.

Tom Condon, OP

Genres: Drama and War

Running Time: 2 hrs. 15 min.

not rated



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