on: . The audio leads off with Tony Nguyen giving the background leading up to his making this film. Updated blog entry follows:
Youth advocate Lam Duong as he appeared on the only videotaped interview before he was slain
A bold new documentary dares to address something only whispered about in the Vietnamese diasporic communities in North America -- the existence, especially in the 1980s, of a violent group of thugs -- masquerading as "freedom fighters".
Enforcing the Silence director Tony Nguyen, himself having been a youth advocate in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, in resurrecting the shortened life of Vietnamese immigrant activist and journalist/editor Lam Trong Duong [in Vietnamese: Dương Trọng Lâm], pays tribute to those in the Vietnamese diasporic communities that were anti-war and progressive. Lam Doung founded the first Vietnamese youth center in America (Vietnamese Youth Development Center), and published a progressive Vietnamese-language newspaper, Cai Dinh Lang, that reprinted stories from Hanoi. That he supported Ho Chi Minh -- he was an early immigrant in 1971, prior to the fall of Saigon, and he attended Oberlin High on an American Field Service exchange and later stayed to attend Oberlin College -- may have led to his murder in 1981 at the young age of 27.
A youthful Lam Duong
I say "may" because that's what the director says, given that the murder case remains unsolved, much like the half-dozen or so other cases of Vietnamese journalists and activists who were murdered. (The director does mention the 1987 Orange County case of Garden Grove-based Vietnamese magazine publisher Tap Van Pham, but leaves out another OC murder, in 1984, of CSUF Physics Prof. Edward L. Cooperman, whose activism in scientific exchange with post-war Vietnam is believed to have caused his murder by a Vietnamese student he mentored). Two locals are interviewed: Former OC Register Little Saigon reporter Jeff Brody (he's now teaching journalism at CSUF) and OC Weekly investigative reporter Nick Schou.
The film focuses on interviews with activists (including Lam Duong's colleagues at the youth center), and law enforcement (SFPD and FBI), and raises the possibility that a key Reagan and later Bush administration figure may have been the link with National United Front for the Liberation of Vietnam founder Hoang Hoang Co Minh, now deceased.
This powerful hour-long film is testimony to the best in documentary work, uncovering a hidden subject. That it did not get a screening at the just-concluded VIFF (Vietnamese International Film Festival) is a sad commentary on the fear that still pervades the Vietnamese diasporic communities. It is a fear that continues to intimidate some artists and film folks as well as some in the community at large. In rejecting the film, VIFF missed an opportunity to take a stand in support of artistic freedom while simultaneously continuing to enforce the very silence Tony Nguyen's film addresses.
In feedback on the Diacritics site after USC Prof. Viet Thanh Nguyen suggested interviews with anti-communist leaders might have "humanized" them, the director Tony Nguyen says he was not able to contact any Front officials. (Although the director passed through Southern California in making the film, he didn't manage to interview then-Front spokesman Do Diem, who once incidentally even sat on the advisory board of the Southeast Asian Archive at UC Irvine. -- See my piece in the OC Weekly on a Front spinoff. ADDED: See also my profile in OC Weekly of Do Diem: Guerrilla in the Midst)
Director Tony Nguyen has an appeal online to raise funds for distributing the film.
I talk with director Tony Nguyen about his courageous new documentary and how he will distribute it. UNFORTUNATELY THE SUBVERSITY SHOW TODAY IS PRE-EMPTED BY JAZZ so I'll post the interview online asap.
The film screens Saturday 30 April 2011 (5 p.m.) at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival at Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd (at Crescent Heights) West Hollywood, CA 90046. PARKING: Free for 3 hours with validation. See film schedule for more information: http://laapff.festpro.com/schedule/ -- Daniel C. Tsang