Sunday, September 12, 2010

From UCI Film & Media Studies Student to Film Star in Vietnam

Update: To listen to the September 13, 2010 Subversity show with our interview with Kathy Uyen, click here:

While working at UCI Libraries' multimedia resources center earlier this past decade, then student-assistant Kathy Nguyen, a double Film & Media Studies and Economics major, was fascinated with independent films and Asian American media. Just six years later, the San Jose-born California native would be catapulted to popular media fame as a movie star in her parents' native land, Vietnam, where she now lives.

We caught up with her the evening the film that has become Vietnam's biggest box office hit of the year opened in Orange County. She plays a starring role in Để Mai tính (Fool for Love) where class and wealth interfere with the quest for true love in authentic roles played by Kathy Uyen (her stage name) and Dustin Nguyen (of 21 Jump Street fame).

Set in the beach resort of Nha Trang, the comedy is directed by noted filmmaker Charlie Nguyen, who also stars as the hotel magnate who seeks the affection of an up and coming lounge singer, played by Kathy Uyen. Vietnamese actor Thai Hoa convincingly plays a flaming queen who falls for the love-struck worker played by Dustin Nguyen, despite the latter's confirmed heterosexuality. (The film shows the two men in a sauna together, dancing at a gay party, and kissing!)

In our conversation taped at Au Lac, the classy vegetarian restaurant on Brookhurst near the 405 Freeway, Kathy Nguyen reflects on her college days at UCI and how it prepared her for the film industry, and talks about the attraction and challenge of working in Vietnam's re-emerging film industry -- including starring in a Vietnamese-language role.

We air our conversation with Kathy Nguyen on the second half of the next Subversity show, airing on KUCI, 88.9 FM at 5:30 p.m. on 13 September 2010. The segment is also simulcast via

Fool for Love, which opened last Friday, continues at Edwards Westminster 10,6721 Westminster Blvd., Westminster, CA 92683 and at Regal Garden Grove 16,
9741 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, CA 92841. The film is in Vietnamese with English subtitles. The film is being released at selected Vietnamese American enclaves nation-wide by Wave Releasing.

Kathy Uyen Nguyen [above] during our interview at Au Lac. Photo © Daniel C. Tsang

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