Seeing Double: The Films of R. Hong-An Truong

“Seeing Double: The Films of R. Hong-An Truong” was originally published in Postmodern Culturevolume 17, issue no. 1 (September 2006).


For those whose image of Viet Nam comes only from the reel projected by Hollywood, the version of that country that appears in Hong-An Truong’s films may seem alien territory. Truong’s colonial-era Viet Nam didn’t exist by that name, but was partitioned by the French into Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina, which, along with Cambodia and Laos, composed Indochina. The colonial past she explores so delicately is truly a distant colony, far removed both from the sweatshop that is the country’s semi-capitalist present and from the brothel it Truong_FL_1979 was in the American era. One way for us to measure the difference between the later American style of domination and the earlier French one is with our eyes, for if the American military swaggered memorably through Southeast Asia in olive-green fatigues, French colonizers possessed a far more romantic sense of style. As part of their dowry to the Vietnamese, the French left behind not only fine coffee and crusty bread, but also cinema-worthy architecture and white colonial suits. While those effete trappings are no match for the strong-arm seductions of an American like Colonel Sanders–the only man left in Ho Chi Minh City still wearing a white suit today–they provide the French, and the world, with the sepia-toned illusions of a more civilized period of rule. Truong’s films quietly but persistently demand that we look twice at these illusions.

To read the rest of  the article, please download PDF.


Watch a clip of Hong An-Truong’s Explosions in the Sky (Dien Bien Phu 1954)

Watch Duke University’s interview of Hong-An Truong

Category: Essays


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *