Trinh T. Minh-ha

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Trinh T. Minh-ha
Trịnh Thị Minh Hà
Born Trịnh Thị Minh Hà
Hanoi, Vietnam
Occupation filmmaker, writer, composer professor,

Trinh T. Minh-ha (* 1952, Hanoi) is a Vietnamese filmmaker, writer, literary theorist, composer and professor. She has been making films for over thirty years and may be best known for her films Reassemblage, made in 1982, and Surname Viet Given Name Nam, made in 1985. She has received several awards and grants, including the American Film Institute’s National Independent Filmmaker Maya Deren Award, and Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council. Her films have been the subject of twenty retrospectives.[1]

She teaches courses that focus on gender politics as related to cultural politics, post-coloniality, contemporary critical theory and the arts. The seminars she offers focus on critical theory and research, cultural politics, feminist theory, Third cinema, film theory and aesthetics, the Voice in social and creative contexts, and the autobiographical.[2]


Trinh T. Minh-ha was born in Hanoi, Vietnam. She was brought up in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Among other educational trajectories, she studied piano and music composition at the National Conservatory of Music and Theater in Saigon. Trinh T. Minh-ha migrated to the United States in 1970. She studied music composition, ethnomusicology, and French literature at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where she received her Ph.D. degree. She has been a professor in the Gender and Women's Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley since 1994 and in the Department of Rhetoric[3] since 1997. She has also taught at Harvard, Smith, Cornell, San Francisco State University, the University of Illinois, Ochanomizu University in Japan, and the National Conservatory of Music in Senegal.


Reassemblage (40 mins, 1982)[edit]

Reassemblage [1] is Trinh T. Minh-ha's first 16mm film. It was filmed in Senegal and released in 1982. In Reassemblage Trinh explains that she intends "not to speak about/Just speak nearby," unlike more conventional ethnographic documentary film. The film is a montage of fleeting images from Senegal and includes no narration, although there are occasional statements by Trinh T. Minh-ha. None of the statements given by her assign meaning to the scenes. There is music, silence, sometimes Trinh views a movie, refusing to make the film "about" a "culture".[4] It points to the viewers expectation and the need for the assignment of meaning.

Naked Spaces - Living is Round (135 mins, 1985)[edit]

In Naked Spaces: Living Is Round [2], Trinh T. Minh-ha elaborates on Reassemblage. She examines the themes of postcolonial identification and the geopolitical apparatus of disempowerment in Reassemblage to create an ethnographic essay-film on identity, the impossibility of translation, and space as a form of cultural representation.[5] She re-frames the images in order to establish a figurative filter - a usurped privileged gaze. The montage of images point towards the economy of entertainment, which exoticizes images; exploited by the international community as justification for continued neocolonialism. Trinh's images re-present struggle and resistance to the mystification and exoticization of African life. Her images suggest a process of interpretation as an explanation to resist prescribed assumptions and the perpetuation of stereotypes, as it is announced in the opening statement, "Not descriptive, not informative, not interesting."[6]

Surname Viet Given Name Nam (108 mins, 1989)[edit]

Surname Viet Given Name Nam [3] is not made in Vietnam. The film is composed of newsreel and archival footage as well as printed information. The film features interviews with five contemporary Vietnamese women. Surname Viet Given Name Nam "allows the practice of interviews to enter into the play of the true and the false, and the real and the staged."[7] Trinh T. Minh-ha by showing both the staged and the "real" interviews it demarcates the differences of the two which addresses the invisibility of the politics of interviews, and further relations of representations. The film asks the viewer to consider issues such as plural identity, the fictions inherent in documentary techniques, and film as translation. Surname Viet, Given Name Nam, has received much attention, including winning the Blue Ribbon Award at the American Film and Video festival.[8]

Shoot for the Contents (102 mins, 1991)[edit]

Shoot for the Content [4] refers in part to a Chinese guessing game. It is a unique maze of allegorical naming and storytelling in China. The film ponders questions of power and change, politics and culture, stemming from events at Tiananmen Square. The title juggles with documentary concepts of getting to the truth: "Shoot for the contents". Simultaneously, it questions the film itself, "guess what's in this film."[9] The film inquires into the process of film-making. The film is delicately layered with Chinese popular songs, classical music, sayings of Mao and Confucius, women's voices, words of artists, philosophers, and other workers. The multifaceted layering of images and sounds once again touch on themes Trinh addresses in earlier film (Surname Viet Given Name Nam) on the multiplicity of identity, and the politics of representation, in this case, re-presentations of China. The film's delicate balance between omission and depiction and its play with colors, rhythm, and the changing relationship between ear and eye suggest shifts of interpretation in contemporary Chinese culture and politics. This film won Minh-ha the Excellence in Cinematography Award in 1992 [5].

A Tale of Love (108 mins, 1995) ("fiction")[edit]

Trinh T. Minh-ha's tenth film, A Tale of Love [6] is loosely based on the Vietnamese epic poem The Tale of Kieu The Tale of Kieu, a national love poem written in the 19th century that follows the misfortunes of Thúy Kiều, a talented, young woman who sacrificed her "purity" by prostituting herself to save her family. The poem has been widely regarded as a metaphor for the often-invaded Vietnam. The film tells the story of Vietnamese immigrant Kieu, a freelance writer who is struggling between the conflicting demands of a new life in America, the family she left behind and her own ambitions. This was Minh-ha's first feature-length film shot in 35mm [7].

The Fourth Dimension (87 mins, Digital, 2001)[edit]

The Fourth Dimension [8] is Trinh T. Minh-ha's first digital video feature.[9] It is an exploration of time through rituals of new technology, daily life and what is understood as conventional ritual, including festivals, religious rites, and theatrical performance. The film brings the viewers to a recognition that "in the end" "what is sensually brought on screen" is not "Japan, but the expansive reality of Japan as image and as time-light."[10] Here, travel through Japan is through a camera, a travelogue of images, where a visual machine ritualizes the journey. The images that come alive in time also frame time in the film; this is where the actual and virtual meet- The Fourth Dimension.[11] In the process of ritualizing the images of "rituals of Japan" it is an encounter between self and other, human and machine, viewer and image, fact and fancy, the nexus at which the past and present are made possible.

Night Passage (98mins, Digital, 2004) ("fiction")[edit]


  • Un art sans oeuvre, ou, l'anonymat dans les arts contemporains (International Book Publishers, Inc., 1981)
  • African Spaces - Designs for Living in Upper Volta (in coll. with Jean-Paul Bourdier, Holmes & Meier, 1985)
  • En minuscules (book of poems, Edition Le Meridien, 1987)
  • Woman, Native, Other. Writing postcoloniality and feminism (Indiana University Press, 1989)
German Edition: trans. Kathrina Menke, Vienna & Berlin: Verlag Turia & Kant, 2010.
Japanese Edition: trans. Kazuko Takemura, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1995.
  • Out There: Marginalisation in Contemporary Culture (co-editor with Cornel West, R. Ferguson & M. Gever. New Museum of Contemporary Art and M.I.T. Press, 1990)
  • When the Moon Waxes Red. Representation, gender and cultural politics (Routledge, 1991)
Japanese Edition : trans. Fukuko Kobayashi, Tokyo: Misuzu Publishers, 1996.
  • Framer Framed (Routledge, 1992)
  • Drawn from African Dwellings (in coll. with Jean-Paul Bourdier, Indiana University Press, 1996)
  • Cinema Interval (Routledge, 1999)
  • Trinh T. Minh-ha / Secession (Secession, 2001)
  • The Digital Film Event (Routledge, 2005)
  • Habiter un monde (in coll. with Jean-Paul Bourdier, Editions Alternatives, 2005)
English Edition: Vernacular Architecture in West Africa: A World in Dwelling (in coll. with Jean-Paul Bourdier, Routledge, 2011)
  • Elsewhere, Within Here: Immigration, Refugeeism and the Boundary Event (Routledge, 2011)
Swedish Edition: Nagon annanstans, har inne (Translated by Goran Dahlberg and Elin Talji; Glänta, 2012)
Japanese Edition: trans. Fukuko Kobayashi. Tokyo: Heibonsha Ltd., 2013.
  • D-Passage: The Digital Way (Duke University Press, 2013)


  • Old Land New Waters (2007, Prefecture Museum and museum of Fine Arts of Okinawa, Japan; 2008, Chechnya Emergency Biennale; 2008, Third Guangzhou Art Triennale; 2009, Prefecture Museum and museum of Fine Arts of Okinawa, Japan)
  • L’Autre marche (in coll. with Jean-Paul Bourdier, 2006, Musée du Quai Branly)
  • Bodies of the Desert (2005, Gallery Blu, Santa Clara)
  • The Desert is Watching (in coll. with Jean-Paul Bourdier, 2003, Kyoto Art Biennale)
  • Nothing But Ways (in coll. with Lynn Marie Kirby, 1999, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco)
  • Photo-montage (1995, San Francisco State University)


  • Poems. Composition for Percussion Ensemble. Premiere by the Univ. of Illinois Percussion Ensemble, Denis Wiziecki, Director. 9 April 1976.
  • Four Pieces for Electronic Music. 1975 Performances at the Univ. of Illinois.


  1. ^ "Trinh T. Minh-ha - Media Arts Fellow". Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  2. ^ "VG: Artist Biography: Trinh, T. Minh-ha". 2004-12-03. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  3. ^ "Rhetoric Department". Retrieved 2014-02-09. 
  4. ^ Trinh T. Minh-ha.Woman, Native, Other. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989.
  5. ^ "Notes on the Cinema Stylographer: October 2007 Archives". Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  6. ^ Minha, Trinh. Framer Framed. New York: Routledge, 1992
  7. ^ Trinh, Minh-ha. Framer Framed. New York: Routeledge, 1992, 146
  8. ^ "Interviewer Interviewed: A Discussion with Trinh T. Minh-ha". Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  9. ^ Kaplan, Anna. Looking for the Other. Routledge, 1997. 210
  10. ^ "The Fourth Dimension: Digital Video and Lecture by Trinh T. Minh-Ha at the UCLA Asia Institute". 2003-02-13. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  11. ^ Trinh, Minha. The Digital Film Event. New York: Routledge, 2005. 10


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