Films on Viet Nam War have been made many times, but never through the lense of the Vietnamese-American people. After three years of researching and writing, director Ham Tran shows the world the life and death experiences of the boat people and the inhumanity of the re-education camps through Journey from the Fall.
The journey begins in April 1975, immediately after the fall of Viet Nam. Like many families, the Nguyens splitted between fleeing to heaven and trapping in hell. Although Ham Tran shifts his camera between Long Nguyen (goes by his real name) who spent most of his time in a rusted box while his mother (Kieu Chinh), wife (Diem Lien) and son (Nguyen Thai Nguyen) floating their lives on the boat, the editor (Ham Tran himself) has skillfully unfolded the story in an out-of-sequence order. The technique makes the experience more chaotic, yet its subtlety never loses the viewers attention.
Like most films on the controversies of Viet Nam War, I tend to leave the political issues at the door before stepping into the theater and just enjoy the work of art itself. Still, when a film reaches deep into human suffering and surviving that closed to your heart, the intense graphics and heartfelt performances could stir up your emotion. The main casts have done such a convincing job that they’ve come across as if they have lived their characters. Mad props to Ham Tran for not only his directing skill, but scripting as well. I’ve seem so many Vietnamese movies with awkward dialogues, but he has pulled it off by making the conversations sound natural. Thanks for taking us into the treacherous journey.