Vietnam: The Next Generation

Film by Sandy Northrop to Premiere on Independent Lens, the Emmy Award-winning Series on PBS, Hosted By Susan Sarandon Tuesday, May 17, 2005, at 10pm (check local listings)

Meet eight young Vietnamese whose lives reflect hope for the future

Program companion website: 

(San Francisco) — Americans remember the Vietnam War. But what do we know of those born in its aftermath? How have they capitalized on the dividends of peace? That's what VIETNAM: The Next Generation sets out to answer. The final film in Sandy Northrop's trilogy on Vietnam today, VIETNAM: The Next Generation offers an intimate profile of eight young Vietnamese, examining the challenges, choices and dreams that shape their lives, and that of their generation. The film will be broadcast on Tuesday, May 17, at 10pm (check local listings). 

Thirty years ago the only future that awaited young Vietnamese was war. Today Vietnam's first post-war generation is coming of age and its members — now in their twenties and thirties — are seizing opportunities unimaginable in their parents' time. Largely because of them, communism is losing its relevancy, the doors of a free-market economy are opening and memories of the “American” war are being relegated to the distant past. This generation, representing 80 percent of Vietnam's population, is making up for lost time and discovering what other kids in Southeast Asia already know: the only thing money won't buy is poverty. To get to know this post-war generation is to be amazed and moved by its industriousness, thirst for knowledge and sense of optimism. 

The same young Vietnamese who once stood in line, clutching ration coupons for their family's rice allotment, now believe, by a margin of 4-1 according to a recent poll, that living standards will be better tomorrow than they are today, Many start on a second college degree before they have completed the first. They finish their day jobs as waiters and head off for evening school to study English. They flood into the cities from the countryside —15,000 of them a month — and the money they send back to their villages keeps literally millions of families off poverty's doorstep. One of the intriguing characteristics of the next generation is that it remains tradition-bound at the same time it embraces new influences from the West. 

Family and community are still the unshakeable foundation of society, for both young and old. Respect for elders is an unquestioned obligation. Young men still expect their brides to be virgins. Young women still wear the traditional flowing “ao dais” for family gatherings at Tet. At the same time, the youth rush around city streets, with cell phones, motorscooters and, at night, flit from the Internet cafes to the coffee shops to the late-night discos and karaoke bars. This clash of cultures is perplexing to the Old Guard leadership in Hanoi and underscores immense challenges the government faces in meeting the aspirations of the young. How much freedom can the Communist Party give the post-war generation without stirring demands for political change? How can it annually create the one million jobs needed just to accommodate each year's school graduates? The social and economic answers ultimately lie with this generation, which eventually will take the reins of leadership. 

The companion website for VIETNAM: The Next Generation features detailed information about the film, including exclusive filmmaker Q&A interviews, filmmaker and cast bios and Learn More links and resources pertaining to the films' subject matter. The site will also feature video previews and a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions. 

VIETNAM: THE NEXT GENERATION Participants (in alphabetical order) 
Tran Minh Dang is a voice student at Ho Chi Minh City's Conservatory of Music. He is concerned about how Vietnam will preserve its history and traditions. After graduation in 2003 from the Conservatory of Music, Dang was offered a permanent teaching job there. Married to his childhood friend, Thuy, her whole family has joined them in the large house the couple once took care of as students. It's a lively place, now, and Dang and Thuy hope to soon start a family. 

A Lan Duong is a leading exporter of Vietnamese handicrafts. Her changing fortunes have paralleled that of post war Vietnam. At 14, Duong and her father joined the thousands of people feeling Vietnam on rickety boats. In 1996, the family was told they had no choice but to return to Vietnam. They spent six years in a refugee cam in Hong Kong. Today, in addition to her home décor and ladies clothing shops, she has opened a private club, Mosaique Living Room, which mixes contemporary styles with Asian hospitality. It is an oasis from Hanoi's chaotic streets. 

Henry Nguyen was 18 months old when his family fled Vietnam in 1975 during the final days of the Vietnam War. He grew up in the United States. Henry returned to the country of his birth on a temporary assignment in 2001. After considering lucrative offers to return to the United States to work, Henry has decided to stay in Vietnam. He now wears many hats. He is the co-owner of VINE, a hot new restaurant in Hanoi, and also represents IDG, a venture capital group with seeking investments in Vietnam. 

Le Thi Phuong is a farmer in Quang Tri Province. In 1977 she lost a leg, when she stepped on a landmine in the rice paddies. Phuong participated in the para-olympics in Hanoi in 2003 where she won the distance running and broad jump categories. With her prize money, she has built a small house for herself and Minh, next to her parent's home. Phuong is the sole support for her mother, father, brothers, and five-year old son, Minh. 

Le Viet Tien is a construction engineer helping to build the Ho Chi Minh Highway, a major route that will connect Hanoi in the north to HCMC in the south. Tien and his wife now have a young daughter, one year old. He continues to supervise crews building the Ho Chi Minh Highway, and rarely gets to spend time with his wife and daughter. 

Pham Van Vinh, and his sister Loan, are street kids in one of Ho Chi Minh City's poorer districts. They support their mother who lives in central Vietnam, a 12-hour bus ride away, by selling lottery tickets for 3 cents apiece. On a good day they make $3.00. Despite offers to enroll them at the 15th of May School, Vinh still feels that he and his sister cannot afford the time to go to school. They hope one day to return to their village of Thuy Hoa. 

Producer, Director, Cameraperson, Editor: Sandy Northrop
Writer Judith Dwan Hallett
Cameraman, translator: Pham Ba Hung
Composer: Jim Kessler
Narrator: David Lamb 

About the Filmmakers 
SANDY NORTHROP (Producer, Director, Cameraperson, Editor)
VIETNAM: THE NEXT GENERATION completes Sandy Northrop's Vietnam trilogy, following the success on PBS of her two earlier films—Pete Peterson: Assignment Hanoi and Vietnam Passage: Journeys from War to Peace. She has been a filmmaker since 1972 when she graduated from Stanford University's well-known master's documentary program. Making movies has taken her all over the world. From 1976 to 1985 she was a location manager and editor for the National Geographic Society on its acclaimed television specials, covering topics from endangered elephants and gorillas in Africa to the impact of the computer on our lives. Northrop set out on her own in 1987, producing How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?, the story of pianist Jimmy McKissic. She followed him from the piano bar in Cannes, France where he played to the stage at Carnegie Hall where he realized his dream to make his classical concert debut. Two years later she moved to Washington, D.C., and spent the next seven years producing the historical montages that have become the signature for PBS's National Memorial Day and A Capitol Fourth live spectaculars. 

In 1997 she moved to Hanoi, Vietnam accompanying her husband, David Lamb, a correspondent for the Los Angeles Times on his assignment covering South East Asia. That year she began making Assignment Hanoi, her first program about Vietnam for PBS, telling the story of Pete Peterson, who had survived six years as a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton,” and was returning to Vietnam as the United States' first Ambassador since 1975. Northrop not only produced, directed, and edited the program, but also took on a new role as cinematographer. Her second program, Vietnam Passage: Journeys from War to Peace highlighted the Vietnamese perspective on the war and its aftermath. The Next Generation, on the kids born during or just after the war, is the final film in what has become a trilogy on modern Vietnam. Since returning to Washington, DC, Northrop has been developing a weekly segment on American editorial cartoons for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. The concept grew out of Drawn & Quartered, a book she co-authored in 1996 on two hundred years of American editorial cartoons and their impact on political and popular culture. 

Judith Dwan Hallett (Writer) 
Judith Dwan Hallet is an accomplished director and producer in her own right of documentary programs. In 2001, she completed the award-winning, WITNESS TO HOPE The Life of Pope John Paul II. 

Pham Ba Hung (Cameraman) 
Pham Ba Hung is typical of Vietnam's Next Generation. He started as a production assistant on Sandy Northrop's first Vietnam film in 1998 and now is one of Vietnam's most sought-after cameramen. He also runs a successful graphic design house in Hanoi. 

Jim Kessler (Composer) 
Jim Kessler served for over twenty years on the staff of the U.S. Army Band. He is best known for writing and/or arranging the music for PBS' annual spectaculars, The National Memorial Day and Capital Fourth Concerts on the Mall in Washington, DC. Northrop and Kessler worked together on those programs. Jim has composed the music to each of Northrop's three programs on Vietnam. 

David Lamb (narrator) 
David Lamb, NEXT GENERATION's narrator was the Los Angeles Times South East Asia bureau chief From 1997-2001. Lamb's first overseas assignment was covering the war in Vietnam for UPI, 1968-1970. Upon returning from Vietnam in 2001, Lamb wrote, Vietnam Now: A Reporter Returns. After working for the LA Times for 34 years, he retired in June 2004. Lamb has been the narrator for each of the three programs in Sandy Northrop's Vietnam Trilogy. 

ABOUT Independent Lens 
Independent Lens is an Emmy Award-winning weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. Hosted by Susan Sarandon, the acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history, which prompted Nancy Franklin to write in The New Yorker: “Watching Independent Lens... is like going into an independent bookstore — you don't always find what you were looking for but you often find something you didn't even know you wanted.” Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites, and national publicity and community outreach campaigns. Further information about the series is available at Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American People. 

PBS is a private, nonprofit media enterprise that serves the nation's 349 public noncommercial television stations, reaching nearly 90 million people each week. Bringing diverse viewpoints to television and the Internet, PBS provides high-quality documentary and dramatic entertainment, and consistently dominates the most prestigious award competitions. PBS is the leading provider of educational materials for K-12 teachers, and offers a broad array of educational services for adult learners. PBS' premier kids' TV programming and Web site, PBS KIDS Online (, continue to be parents' and teachers' most trusted learning environments for children. More information about PBS is available at, the leading dot-org web site on the internet. PBS is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. 

Cara White 843/881-1480
Mary Lugo 770/623-8190
Randall Cole 415/356-8383
Desiree Gutierrez 415/356-8383

Posted on March 31, 2005