SOAS University of London

South East Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Vietnam on Screen

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 1

This module provides a critical introduction to Vietnamese cinema and its social, political and cultural context. Students will explore local and global contexts of film production in Vietnam, the specific visual and narrative style of each film, and critical and transnational receptions of Vietnamese films.

The module features some of the most important and influential films produced in Vietnam and in the Vietnamese diaspora. It pays special attention to the films of the renovation period (post-1986). Main topics to be covered include (but are not limited to): tradition and modernity; politics and propaganda; revolution and war; nation and ethnicity; family values; religion; gender and sexuality; rural/urban divide; diaspora and transnational identity; globalization.

The first part of the module is arranged chronologically, the second part is arranged around several key themes.

All films screened in class will be subtitled in English and no knowledge of Vietnamese is required.


None.  This module is also available as an open option.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. understand the history, main trends and key critical debates relating to Vietnamese cinema
  2. understand the varied functions of film (as ideological/political, social representation, or as part of the culture industry)
  3. have a general knowledge of different theoretical and critical methods for approaching film analysis
  4. (in terms of generic skills), strengthened their skills in essay writing and learn how to extract and process information from cinematic and secondary sources, and to combine the two. Students would have also learnt how to contribute constructively to class debates and how to defend their arguments.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

  1. Introduction: History, Modernity, and Vietnamese Cinema:  Bao giờ cho đến tháng mười [When the tenth month comes]; Dir. Đặng Nhật Minh (1984)
  2. Colonialism and nostalgia:  Áo lụa Hà Đông [The White silk dress]; Dir. Lưu Huỳnh (2006)
  3. Revolutionary aesthetics and propaganda: Vietnamese film in the socialist era:  Gánh xiêc rong [The Travelling Circus]; Dir. Việt Linh (1988)
  4. Vietnamese cinema in the Post-socialist (Renovation) Period:  Trở về [The return]; Dir. Đặng Nhật Minh (1994)
  5. War in Vietnamese cinema:  Sống trong sợ hãi [Living in fear]; Dir. Bùi Thạc Chuyên (2005)
  6. Gender in Vietnamese cinema:  Bên không chồng [The Wharf of widows]; Dir. Lưu Trọng Ninh (2000)
  7. Remembering the countryside: rural nostalgia:  Thương nhớ đồng quê [Nostalgia for the countryside]; Dir. Đặng Nhật Minh (1995): Cánh đồng bất tận [The floating lives]; Dir. Nguyễn Phan Quang Bình (2010)
  8. Reconstructing urban space in contemporary Vietnamese films: Gái nhảy [Bar girls]; Dir. Lê Hoàng (2003)
  9. Negotiating local/global identities: Diaspora and transnational Vietnamese cinema:  Ba mùa [Three seasons]; Trần Anh Hùng (1999)
  10. Globalization and commercialization: New Year comedies and the Vietnamese blockbuster:  Để Mai tính [Fool for Love]; Charlie Nguyễn (2010)
  • Áo lụa Hà Đông [The White silk dress], Dir. Lưu Huỳnh (2006)
  • Bao giờ cho đến tháng mười [When the tenth month comes], Dir. Đặng Nhật Minh (1984)
  • Gánh xiêc rong [The Travelling Circus], Dir. Việt Linh (1988)
  • Trở về [The Return], Dir. Đặng Nhật Minh (1994)
  • Bên không chồng [The Wharf of widows], Dir. Lưu Trọng Ninh (2000)
  • Cánh đồng bất tận [The Floating lives], Dir. Nguyễn Phan Quang Bình (2010)
  • Sống trong sợ hãi [Living in fear], Dir. Bùi Thạc Chuyên (2005)

Method of assessment

Two reaction papers of 600 words each (30%); an essay of 2000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, in the term after the module is taught (70%).

Suggested reading

  • Blum-Reid, S. 2003. East-West Encounters. London: Wallflower Press.
  • Bradley, M. P. 2001. ‘Contests of memory: remembering and forgetting war in the contemporary Vietnamese cinema’, in Hue-Tam Ho Tai, ed, The Country of Memory: Remaking the Past in Late Socialist Vietnam, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, pp 196–226.
  • Charlot, J. 1989. ‘Vietnamese cinema: the power of the past’, The Journal of American Folklore, Vol 102, No 406, pp 442–452.
  • Healy, Dana 2006. '’Laments of warriors’ wives: re-gendering the war in Vietnamese cinema.' South East Asia Research, 14 (2). pp. 231-259.
  • Healy, Dana 2010. ‘From triumph to tragedy: visualizing war in Vietnamese film and fiction.’ South Asia Research, 18 (2). pp. 325-347.
  • Lan Duong 2012. Treacherous subjects: gender, culture, and trans-Vietnamese feminism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Naficy, Hamid 2001. An Accented cinema: exilic and diasporic filmmaking. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Nguyen-vo Thu-huong 2008. Ironies of freedom: sex, culture, and neoliberal governance in Vietnam. Seattle, WA, USA: University of Washington Press.
  • Ngo Phuong Lan 2007. Modernity and nationality in Vietnamese cinema. Yogyakarta: Jogja-NETPAC.
  • Pham Vu Dung and Do Lai Thuy (ed.) 2007. Vietnamese cinematography: A Research journey. Hanoi: The Gioi.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules