A film by Gail Doglin and Vicente Franco

Daughter from Danang was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar at the 2003 Academy Awards. For that alone, I figured it would be worth seeing. The subject matter was also moderately interesting to me, but I am always interested in a well made documentary. With the nomination, that is exactly what I figured this would be. It was and at the same, it was not nearly as compelling as I had anticipated.

At the end of the Vietnam War, the United States instituted a program called Operation Babylift (I believe that is what it is called). This program would take half-American Vietnamese orphans and put them up for adoption in America. Unfortunately, not all of the children were orphans, but rather some parents felt compelled to give up their children because they were afraid of the consequences if they didn t. One such child was Mai Thi Hiep. Hiep was adopted and renamed Heidi. She was raised in Tennessee and while she knew she was Vietnamese, she kept it a secret for most of her life (and for all of her high school years). Heidi contacted adoption agencies and discovered that her birth mother was looking for her. She travels to Vietnam to meet her mother for the first time in 22 years and most of the documentary focuses on this experience and the aftermath of it.

Even though Heidi s parentage is Vietnamese, she was raised a southern girl, and as her adoptive grandmother said, her family considers her just another white southern girl. They mean that as a compliment. Heidi s trip to Vietnam results in a culture clash. She knows nothing about Vietnam, its culture, and what family means over there, and she is quickly overwhelmed by her experience. Before the trip, it was her greatest wish to find her mother, but the trip was more than she expected. The only mother she knows was an emotionally abusive woman, and while her true mother is loving, the cultural difference is incredibly difficult for Heidi to overcome.

I do not want to give away everything, otherwise there would be no point in watching, but that is the basic idea of the documentary. I m unsure why, but I did not find Daughter from Danang to be as compelling as I expected. The emotional connection just wasn t there for me and the documentary felt like it was a Dateline special rather than an Academy Award nominee. If the subject sounds interesting, than by all means give this one a look, but I can t give it my highest recommendation.

3 1/2 pugs out of 5.