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 dates
  • 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's 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. 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 United States and placed in an orphanage run by the Holt Adoption Agency.

Heidi was ultimately adopted by Ann Neville, a single American woman; she spent a year in Columbia, South Carolina before finally settling in Pulaski, Tennessee, where Heidi spent her life.[2]

At the start of the documentary, Heidi has been estranged from her adoptive mother for several years. Her mother evicted Heidi from the home and disowned her for coming home ten minutes after curfew. Heidi had since married and had children of her own, but the estrangement between her and her mother has had a lasting emotional effect, and Heidi hopes that finding her biological mother will help her to achieve some kind of closure. 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 well-being.[2] Heidi decides to return to Vietnam, assisted by journalist Tran Tuong Nhu.

In Vietnam, both Heidi and her family experience culture shock, as Heidi has no knowledge of Vietnamese customs and her family— who lives in abject poverty— has little knowledge of American culture. Mai Thi expects to spend every moment of every day with Heidi, including sleeping beside her at night. Not accustomed to such physical closeness, Heidi feels "suffocated" and uncomfortable with the lack of personal space.

Later in the visit, her family informs her that because she lives in America, they expect her to regularly send them money. Upon hearing this, Heidi breaks down and one of her relatives disparages her for crying. It is explained to Heidi that most Vietnamese nationals who move to America provide money for family back home. But given she does not know her Vietnamese family, Heidi feels that they are exploiting her. She decides to return to America ahead of schedule, feeling even more emotional conflict and emptiness than before she left.

At the end of the film, Heidi explains that she rarely receives letters from her family in Vietnam since her visit, but her family does not receive any letters from her. As of mid-2012, Heidi and her mother 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][3][4]


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.[5]

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. ^ 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.[1]
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "NY Times: Daughter from Đà Nẵng". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-23. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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