Daughter from Danang

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 07/26/04 16:14:22

"An uneasy Mother and Child Reunion."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

In 1975, the U.S. government brought thousands of Amerasian "orphans" to this country from Vietnam under a program called Operation Babylift. Turns out not all these children were orphans at all, but infants and even older children coerced away from their mothers who had been put in fear for their children's safety after the war.

The subject of the documentary, Mai Thi Hiep, was removed from Vietnam as a 7 year old child and raised as "Heidi" by a single mother in Pulaski, TN. Although she had been trained to not speak of her heritage, and although she could easily pass for Caucasian and, in her own words, became "101 percent Americanized," as a married adult women with two children, Heidi Bub, who had for years been estranged from her abusive, emotionally distant adoptive mother, yearned to rediscover her roots.

Unfortunately, Heidi's joyous journey of discovery to Vietnam and her reunion with her mother, Mai Thi Kim, and Vietnamese siblings proved ephemeral. Heidi's "101 percent Americanization" having fully taken hold, she felt shocked and betrayed by her birth family's ideas about filial loyalty, just as they were equally baffled by her horror at something so natural to their Asian culture.

I know Daughter from Danang is a film that won't soon (or easily) leave my head: I keep seeing wrenching, troubling, and conflicting images of a girl who lost two mothers, naive in her expectations but also deserving of a mother's love she doesn't have to buy; of a mother who lost her daughter for 22 years, then, having finally reunited with her, clinging in a stranglehold that ultimately alienates her again; and of a country (ours) that, under the guise of humanitarianism, tore apart families and shattered lives in order to win support and funding for the atrocity that was our involvement in Vietnam.

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