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Journey From the Fall

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Journey From the Fall

Journey from the Fall
File:Journey From The Fall Movie Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ham Tran
Produced by Lam Nguyen
Ham Tran
Written by Ham Tran
Starring Kieu Chinh
Long Nguyen
Diem Lien
Cat Ly
Music by Christopher Wong
Cinematography Guillermo Rosas
Julie Kirkwood
Editing by Ham Tran
Distributed by ImaginAsian Pictures
Release date(s)Template:Plainlist
Running time 135 minutes
Country United States
Language Vietnamese

Journey from the Fall (Vietnamese: Vượt Sóng) is a 2006 independent film by writer/director/editor Ham Tran, about the Vietnamese reeducation camp and boat people experience following the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. This drama was released on March 23, 2007, by ImaginAsian to sold-out screenings. The film is notable for having been financed entirely by the Vietnamese American community.


The film traces the story of a family's struggle for survival in the aftermath of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975 to North Vietnam's communist regime. After her South Vietnamese Army husband Long, is imprisoned in a North Vietnamese reeducation camp, Mai, her son Lai, and her mother-in-law escape Vietnam by boat in the hopes of starting a new life in Southern California. Believing his family is dead, Long gives up in the face of brutal conditions, while Mai struggles to keep her family from crumbling under the pressures of life in a new country. When Long learns his family is alive in America, he is reinvigorated and decides he must join them at any cost.


An early cut of the film was screened in April 2005 in sold-out one-day-only showings in Little Saigon, Washington, D.C., and San Jose to commemorate the 30 year anniversary of the Fall of Saigon. The film was highly-praised by the Vietnamese diaspora as an accurate presentation of the experiences that many Vietnamese people had to go through.[1][2][3][4] In the process of making the film, the director interviewed more than 400 former boat people, some of whom are cast in the film even though they are not professional actors.[3]

In the opening weekend, it played in packed theaters, generating $87,442 on just four screens, giving the film the largest per theater average for that weekend ($21,861).[5]

The film received mostly favorable reviews. In the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it received an 92% "fresh" and is currently in the Top 100(27th) Best Movies of 2007.[6] Matt Zoller Seitz of The New York Times remarked that the director "achieves the impossible" and called it a "tearjerker".[7] The Los Angeles Times called it a "superbly wrought saga of loss and survival" and "an example of sophisticated, impassioned filmmaking involving mainly people who lived through the harrowing experiences so unsparingly depicted".[8] Bruce Newman of the San Jose Mercury News called it "heartbreaking" and gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars.[9] Russell Edwards from Variety said it "deserves to be seen by a wider commercial audience" and is "frequently enthralling".[10] New York magazine had a negative review of the film, saying that it has "several powerful sequences" but "never quite come[s] alive".[11] Bill White of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was even more critical, suggesting that "this Journey doesn't know where it's going", criticizing the "careless cinematography" and "clumsy stag[ing]".[12]


The OC Weekly, an alternative weekly in Orange County, California, published two reviews of the film. The first and longer review was written by R. Scott Moxley, praised the director for "bring[ing] to life the true South Vietnamese experience".[13] The second and much shorter review was published almost a year later, written by Scott Foundas. In his review, Foundas praised the film for being "one of the few movies to depict Vietnam and its aftermath through the eyes of the Vietnamese" but ultimately characterized it as "old-fashioned and even phony".[14] This conclusion brought a flurry of letters to the paper, most disagreeing with Foundas and taking offense at his "phony" characterization,[15][16] prompting Foundas to clarify his review, claiming that he was "by no means suggesting that the history depicted by the movie didn't happen, but rather that matters were not nearly as black-and-white as Mr. Tran makes them seem".[17]

In Vietnam, where the film was neither filmed nor shown officially, pirated copies were so prevalent that the government issued orders to confiscate all DVD copies.[18] The film was banned for its "reactionary" content. The government consider the film "defamation" and a "distortion" of its policy of sending people to reeducation camps after 1975. The film was considered such a threat that the Ministry of Public Security's newspaper Công an Nhân dân featured an article warning about the "poisonous film" and claiming that "most overseas Vietnamese are indifferent or critical of this movie".[19] The article also quoted Foundas and several random people in online message boards to bolster its claim.


The film is distributed by ImaginAsian Pictures, and released in Orange County, New York City, and San Jose on March 23, 2007, to sold-out screenings. With a total gross of $87,442 in its opening weekend, it has the highest opening weekend for any Vietnamese diasporic film to date. The opening weekend's per-screen average of $21,861 was the highest of any film that opened on the March 23 weekend,[20] and the second weekend's average of $16,513 per screen was number one as well, despite expanding to two additional screens.

As of July 16, the film has grossed over $630,000, despite a limited release that never exceeded fourteen theaters at a time.[21]

Since its opening weekend on March 23, 2007, it has expanded to Dallas, Houston, Washington, DC, San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, Mountain View, Daly City, Seattle, Berkeley, Honolulu, Atlanta, Portland, Sacramento, Vancouver, and is expanding to other cities throughout the summer in what is called a "rolling release".


The film was not eligible for competition in the Sundance Film Festival even though it was an official selection because it was screened prior at a Korean film festival (only world premiere films at Sundance are eligible for competition).

Home media release

The 2-disc DVD was released on October 31, 2007, which includes a 38-minute The Making of Journey from the Fall, a 135-minute roundtable discussion/commentary with cast and crew, a deleted scene and alternate ending, as well as original theatrical trailer and TV spots.


See also


External links

  • Official Website
  • Interview with Ham Tran
  • CBS 5 TV interview
  • Journal from the Fall in YouTube
  • Hành trình "vượt sóng" qua phim on BBC (Vietnamese)
  • Internet Movie Database
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