Daughter from Danang

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Daughter from Đà Nẵng
Daughter from Danang.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Gail Dolgin
Vicente Franco
Produced by Gail Dolgin
Sunshine Sara Ludder (Associate Producer)
Starring Heidi Bub
Mai Thi Kim
Tran Tuong Nhu
Music by B. Quincy Griffin
Hector Perez
Van-Anh T. Vo (Vietnamese Musician)
Cinematography Vicente Franco
Edited by Kim Roberts
Interfaze Educational Productions
in association with American Experience and the National Asian-American Telecommunications Association (NAATA) [1]
Distributed by PBS Home Video (US DVD)
Release date
  • January 11, 2002 (2002-01-11) (Sundance)

November 1, 2002 (NYC)
Running time
83 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Daughter from Đà Nẵng is a 2002 documentary film about an Amerasian, Heidi Bub (a.k.a. Mai Thi Hiep), born on December 10, 1968, in Danang in southern Vietnam, one of the children brought to the United States from Vietnam in 1975 during "Operation Babylift" at the end of the Vietnam War.


Heidi Neville Bub was born on December 10, 1968 in Danang as Mai Thi Hiep. Her mother, Mai Thi Kim, already had three children and was estranged from her husband Do Huu Vinh, who had left her to fight with the Viet Cong. She was working at an American military base where she met Heidi's father, an American serviceman. He has had no contact with her since Heidi's birth. When the North Vietnamese army came closer to Danang, Mai Thi Kim feared for Heidi's safety due to rumors of retaliation against mixed-race children. At the age of six, Heidi was sent to the United States and placed in an orphanage run by the Holt Adoption Agency.

Heidi was soon adopted by Ann Neville, a single and strictly religious American woman who renamed her Heidi. They spent a year in Columbia, South Carolina before permanently settling in Pulaski, Tennessee. [2]

Heidi's adoptive mother told her that her parents had died in the war, and not to tell anyone she'd been born out of wedlock. She was also instructed to tell people she had been born in the US and not Vietnam, and that she was fully white and not biracial [3]. As Heidi got older, her mother did not want her to date or have friends. She considered Heidi's leaving for college a betrayal and ungratefulness. During the summer before Heidi's sophomore year of college, Heidi returned home to find that her mother had packed up all of her belongings. She told Heidi to never come back and that she no longer had a daughter. It is revealed at the start of the documentary that Heidi is still estranged from her mother. [4]

Heidi is married and has two young daughters of her own, but the rejection from her adoptive mother is still painful. Heidi hopes that meeting her biological mother might help heal that pain. Heidi contacts the Holt Adoption Agency, and learns that her biological mother, Mai Thi Kim, sent them a letter in 1991 asking about Heidi's whereabouts.[2] The agency had forwarded this information to Heidi's mother, but she never informed Heidi. Now that she knows her biological mother was trying to find her, Heidi decides to return to Vietnam, assisted by journalist Tran Tuong Nhu.

Upon meeting, Mai Thi and Heidi hug and cry tears of joy, but this reunion soon gives way to culture shock. Heidi has no prior knowledge of Vietnamese customs, food, language or culture. Mai Thi expects to spend every moment with Heidi, even sleeping beside her at night. Her other family members constantly want to touch or hug her. This rattles Heidi, as she grew up in a home with little affection. She is not used to the crowded conditions in the markets where she shops with Mai Thi. The constant invasion of her personal space makes Heidi feel suffocated and overwhelmed.

She also discovers that her family lives in abject poverty, and they have been taking care of Mai Thi for years. Mai Thi tells Heidi that she wants to live the rest of her life in America with her. Heidi's half-brother is the head of the family, and he informs her that it is now her turn to care for their mother. Heidi is blindsided by this request, as she didn't even know the family existed until a few months before. Heidi replies that taking Mai Thi to America is not feasible.

Her half-brother tells her that if she cannot take Mai Thi with her, then she is expected to send them money regularly. Heidi is shocked and walks out of their home in tears. Given the cultural differences, her family does not understand why the requests upset her, and one relative remarks that Heidi cries too much. Heidi's guide explains to her that it is common for most Vietnamese nationals who move to America to provide money for their families remaining in Vietnam. Heidi maintains that she does not really know her Vietnamese family, and feels she is being exploited. She had expected a family reunion and answers to her past, but instead thinks her family is only interested in her financial support. She decides to return to America ahead of schedule, feeling more emotional conflict than ever before.

Months after Heidi's visit, she says she occasionally gets letters from her family in Vietnam, but they are all requests for money. She has not replied to their letters.

As of mid-2012, Heidi and Mai Thi have not met again since her initial visit. She has chosen not to keep in touch with her Vietnamese family, since doing so brings her too much pain.[2][5][6]


The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[7]

Film festival awards[edit]

  • 2002 Sundance Film Festival, Grand Jury Prize Best Documentary
  • San Francisco International Film Festival, Golden Gate Award Grand Prize, Best Bay Area Documentary
  • Ojai Film Festival, Best Documentary Feature
  • Durango (Colorado) Film Festival, Filmmakers Award
  • 2002 Texas Film Festival, Best Documentary and Audience Choice Award
  • New Jersey International Film Festival, Best Documentary
  • Nashville International Film Festival, Honorable Mention - Best Documentary
  • Cleveland International Film Festival, Runner Up - Best Film



  1. ^ "DAUGHTER FROM DANANG", British Film Institute (BFI)
  2. ^ a b c People and Events: Biography of Heidi Bub - WGBH-TV, Boston, PBS American Experience documentary series.
  3. ^ [http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Soc/soc.culture.china/2009-09/msg00036.html
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Rosenberg, Elinor B., The Adoption Life Cycle : the children and their families through the years, New York : Free Press ; Toronto : Maxwell Macmillan Canada ; New York : Maxwell Macmillan International, 1992. ISBN 0-02-927055-3. University of Michigan Professor, Rosenberg, who is a psychiatric social worker, was interviewed by USA Today newspaper on March 13, 2003 about this film and said: "The outcomes of reunions with birth parents vary widely. Bub's quest might have been doomed from the start. Adults who dislike their adoptive parents tend to fare poorly with reunions. They often seek substitute parents. They want to be parented again, this time by their fantasy birth parent. But in most cases, birth parents have gone on with their own lives and aren't interested in trying to raise a child again. It's often difficult to reunite across vastly different cultures.[2]
  6. ^ Franco, Vicente. "Sunday Best: Daughter From Danang ... Where Are They Now?". Official blog of ABC television. ABC. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012. 
  7. ^ "NY Times: Daughter from Đà Nẵng". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 
  8. ^ http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Soc/soc.culture.china/2009-09/msg00036.html

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Southern Comfort
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: Documentary
Succeeded by
Capturing the Friedmans