SOAS University of London

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

Vietnam on Screen (PG)

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
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 will introduce some of the most important and influential films from Vietnam and the Vietnamese diaspora. Special attention will be paid 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

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • have a broad knowledge of the history, main trends and key critical debates relating to Vietnamese cinema
  • situate cinematic works within their cultural, social and political context of production and reception and understand the varied functions of film (as ideological/political, social representation, or as part of the culture industry)
  • have a general knowledge of key theoretical and critical methods for approaching film analysis
  • assess critically the materials and themes explored in the module
  • compare and engage with different scholarly approaches to the study of modern Vietnamese film
  • produce critical writing that is theoretically-informed


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours contact per week comprising of 1 hour lecture and 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 2,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, in the term following the one in which the module is taught (70%).

Suggested reading

  • Bradley, Mark Philip. 2000. Imagining Vietnam and America: The Making of Postcolonial Vietnam, 1919-1950. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina.
  • Hue-Tam Ho Tai, ed (2001), The Country of memory: remaking the past in late socialist Vietnam, University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • 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.
  • Pettus, Ashley (2003), Between Sacrifice and Desire: national Identity and the Governing of Femininity in Vietnam. New York: Routledge.
  • Taylor, Philip (20010, Fragments of the present: searching for modernity in Vietnam's South. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules