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“Tradition” and the Discourse of National Identity in the Films of Overseas Vietnamese Directors

Sun, June 26, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: BF, 010


“Tradition” is a critical concept in the expressions of national identity of overseas Vietnamese directors. Living far from Vietnam, mostly in the US, expatriate Vietnamese directors have represented an imagined national identity through various forms of tradition. Overseas directors use repeated aesthetic motifs to convey ideas of tradition, reflecting their perceptions of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. Closely analyzing various films of overseas Vietnamese directors—such as Tran Anh Hung’s Scent of Green Papaya, The Vertical Ray of the Sun, Tony Bui’s Three Seasons, Doan Minh Phuong’s How Long Does a Rain Drop Fall? Nguyen-Vo Nghiem Minh’s The Buffalo Boy, and Nguyen Duc Minh’s Touch—this paper points out the traditions employed by overseas Vietnamese directors to describe their perception of Vietnamese identity.
By applying discourse theory, with analyses of the repetition of aesthetic elements (such as the motives of lesbian, romantic, and nostalgic sentiments) and poetic patterns (such as narrative structure, topics and themes, characters, actors and acting, and signs and symbols), this paper comprises a comparison of the different forms of tradition used by overseas Vietnamese directors in their films to depict Vietnamese identity. The diverse expression of national identity by different traditions proves that national identity is not a constant concept but varies depending on its subjects and circumstances. Vietnamese identity is not unified, but includes discourses invented in the creative process of each director.