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Practicing Theory

Surname Viet, Given Name Nam is 108 minutes long and was directed, edited and written by Minh-ha. The film, although based on Vietnamese women, has not been made in Vietnam; the motive behind which accentuates the issues that Minh-ha raises. The essence of notion behind the film is the about the nature of documentaries and interviews. The film raises some hard-core questions about the issues reverberating behind the curtain of what is apparent. It addresses cultural values in the light of identity and popular memory. The film explores the Vietnamese woman and the role she has played in the historical context of the Vietnam War and the role she continues to play in the modern society. It attempts to bring to surface the nexus of how real and enacted characters blur the reality, and how drastically different can documentaries be from real life. She has intricately portrayed the nuances of fictional elements that become imbued in documentaries featuring actors instead of the real people. The end result is a sensual melodrama of courage and perseverance of the Vietnamese women embedded in a beautifully crafted multilayered depiction of interviews and documentaries.
In her films, Minh-ha frames a richly ambiguous connection with ethnography, while highlighting the cultures of suppressed groups by digressing from the typical traditional techniques of ethnographic film (Petrolle and Wexman 178). Surname Viet, Given Name Nam has been shot in both black and white and in color and it contains printed information as well. The film makes use of many dramatic conventions like freeze frames. Stop-motion footage has been used extensively in the start of the film. The director uses techniques that focus the audience’s attention to one part of the screen. At many times in the movie, the camera is shaky and focuses on the hands of the interviewees, stressing upon the point that Minh-ha is ...Show more


Minh-ha is an acclaimed filmmaker, writer, feminist, academic and composer. She was born in Vietnam in 1952 but immigrated to the US when she was 18. She has studied French literature and music, and has taught in many colleges including Harvard and Smith. One of her…
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