Daughter from Danang

I was poking around on hulu and found that Daughter from Danang is available.  It is about an Amerasian woman who was six years old when she was flown to the United States during “Operation Babylift.”  I found the documentary deeply disturbing and questioned the ethics of the filmmakers.  It seemed exploitative of the subject.

But go watch for yourself.  Then report back.  (I haven’t seen it since it was first released.  May re-watch it later.)

36 thoughts on “Daughter from Danang

  1. I saw it and found it fairly sad. She did not understand the desperate circumstances that her birth family was in. Unfortunately some of her cousins who assumed that she was wealthy were too much to handle. I think she became afraid that these people she had never known did not see her as a real person and she decided never to go back.

    She was trying to get a long with her birth mother but the male cousins who assumed that she would understand the nature of extended familial relationships in Vietnam probably scared her off. The mother was very sad since she had never wanted to loose her daughter.

    As to the daughter I think that without really knowing it she might have bought into stereotypes about Vietnamese people that her southern adopted mother her Caucasian husband, friends, neighbours and others might have unconsciously feed her without knowing.

    I saw this film after spending a year reading what you have to say about international adoption and I think it raised many issues that you are familiar with and that you have probably seen already.

    I felt some sympathy for everyone especially since I immigrated to the US from an African country and can see why the extended family people might have acted the way they did. I also know how people helping their relatives has been abused.

    When I think about it too there might have been some things have to deal with gender since as I said it was some of her male cousins who asked her to help them.

    As a person of colour I found the documentary somewhat problematic. On the other hand it was about the adopted lady and her family all speaking in their own voices and being who they are which was good. I don’t think she ever plans on getting in touch with her Vietnamese extended family which is unfortunate since she might be closing the door to an aspect of her self.

  2. I saw the film in August and cannot remember all the details. I think that if I met an African who was taken from the land of his birth as a very young child ad returned there from the United States as a mid thirties adult to see their extended family and then decided that they never wanted to go back there I think I would be disturbed by that.

    However, if the African-American was able to really articulate why and they had been spending time with their relatives via email, phone calls, facebook and other things for some time then it would be even more weird. However if they just up and left one day and had only been exposed to Boston Brahmin culture and then the next day are in Ivory Coast and decide to never go back to Ivory Coast I might think that they were a little naive in expecting it to be easy.

    It would not mean that they are bad or anything like that simply that they were in over their head and might have setup potentially enriching relationship up to fail from not exposing themselves to their birth culture and its people on its own terms.

    Their relatives would also be as naive and ignorant for expecting the person who has been separated from them throughout their childhood and adulthood to be like them.

    The documentary could have got more into the people’s internal lives and showed us more about previous interactions between the woman and her extended birth family.

    Again I watched the film some time ago and might have missed some things.

  3. I just watched this documentary and was surprised at how selfish Heidi was. I am sorry, but I am angry at her. I know I don’t know her and have no right to judge, but what I do know is this: She has a comfortable home, a fully stocked refrigerator, running water and electricity. I am sure she has money for pizza, outings, and fun. She has computers, tv’s, expensive toys for her kids…need I go on? It would be different if this family abandoned her because they didn’t want her or didn’t love her. But that wasn’t the case. She was given up out of pure love and selflessness. The painful life that her mother has lived is sad, and it was in large part because of the loss of her daughter. When they met, the unbridled joy of the mother was wonderful to watch. She had been dreaming of this day for a long time and the pain of her daughter cutting her off emotionally must have been devastating. The family obviously loves her very much and only asks for help financially because that is the way they do things there. They don’t have nursing homes and social security and disability over there. You take care of your own, and she is a selfish spoiled brat to think that she should not contribute. Think about your family the next time you are hogging a slice of pizza, Heidi. In fact, give me their address. I will help them.

  4. I just have to explain this to everyone (since I’m bilingual and I was born in Vietnam and lived there for 22 years): There is a mistranslation in the climax of the documentary that really worsened Heidi’s feeling. Her family explained to Heidi that in Vietnamese traditions, it’s the children’s duties to take care of their aged parents, and then they asked if she can support her mother by giving her some money monthly, it would be good, but if she can’t. it’s ok. They just want to be frank with her about that matter but the stupid translator didn’t translate it fully back to her and just say: “They want to be frank with you whether you can give your mum some money” which is totally different in meaning.

  5. Thanks for claring that up Alex, seems rather central to the plot.

    I saw a similar film about an Afrikan lady from Haiti that was found in a ditch at 4 months and adopted by whites in Canada. Shewent back to look for her mother, and there was a lot of drama. This film sounds worse tho, mostly because of the adoptee who disowns her people. Shame. Will watch this tonight.

  6. I watched this film after reading a recent comment, and then I read Sume’s post about it. The level of anger and emotions that this film evokes is powerful. I think the film is quite raw and very disturbing. Heide is the survivor of an awful lot of trauma, so it is very hard for me to judge her. The fairy tale wasn’t a fairy tale after all. I can’t judge her for not wanting to bring her mother to the US, she felt overwhelmed by her mother even before that subject came up, and I also think she was feeling homesick for her two very young children, one was a baby.
    My biggest problem with this film, besides taking advantage of Heide, would be that there are plenty of adoptive parents who are going to watch this film with a sigh of relief, that is, if only they are a good parent, their child will not be lost to them if they find their birth family.
    I am glad I watched this film, I think it is powerful, raw, and should be a wake up call to adoptive parents to help prepare their children for reunion and return visits.

  7. You cannot judge Heidi without being in her situation. There are a lot of psychological issues going on meeting your parent for the first time as an adult. I was in a very very similar situation. I am also Vietnamese and raised in the US at young age (under 2) by people who were not related to me. My birth family also asked for money from me soon after reuniting and I felt very hurt. Probably because I was hoping I was enough for them. The need for money in Vietnam is clear. It would be nice to be able to offer it and not feel like there is some birth obligation to do so. It really hurts whether true or not to think that money is what they’ve been waiting for all these years and not the relationship.

    In American, the culture is to be raised by your parents and supported until you get an education or start work. You take care of yourself and your children and then someday when your parents are old you might be asked to help them out, many have retirement. Heidi had young kids at home. She had to think about their future and what she could do for them – saving for college. It may sound selfish, but it a primal instinct.

    I don’t know what situation she is in, but I have college loan debt that I will be paying off for a while, couple that with a mortgage, daycare and medical bills – the idea of being relied on for money monthly to help support another family is overwhelming.

    I do send money to Vietnam but on my own terms and only when I can afford it. I wish I could do more but I understand Heidi situation.

  8. I am not sure whether Alex saw a different movie than me but it was very clear to me that the interpreter explained that if Heidi could help the family financially that was good but if she could not they would understand- even though they really did not understand. Since the movie was made in 2002 I was curious to know whether there had been any followup (which led me to this site). Since Heidi herself did not grow up with a very loving family , the idea of being financially responsible for the family she did not know must have been even more unsettling and confusing to her. Although I did find the movie upsetting I was glad that Heidi not only has her own family at this time but some of the things she learned in Viet Nam will hopefully translate in even more positive attitudes in raising her children.

  9. For the first 20 mins into the movie, I already know Heidi birth mother agenda. I keep telling to my husband ” she wants money”, It was soooo obvious. A loving Vietnamese mother wouldn’t acting that way; too many fake kisses. I am half Vietnamese just like Heidi, and had lived in Vietnam for 15 years. And let me tell you this, The Vietnamese people do not like to displace their emotion in public, she was acting like she just won the lottery, she even asked Heidi take her to American as soon as they first meet at the airport. For the entire movie, all I hear was what Heidi could do “financially” for the family. I strongly believe that Heidi did not owns her birth mother anything. “she gaves the child away” “out of love?” then let the mother’s love shine thought the child without asking anythings in return. Now, that is a mother’s love. If Heidi wants to help her birth mother, it have to be Heidi decisions not because of bullying into it.

  10. After seeing this film, I cant help but feel very sorry for both Heidi and her mother. They are very different people now. I can tell that her mother does love her very much, because thats how my mother kisses me and she does not want money from me because we both live and work in Australia with plenty of money, but we were poor once too. That is just how poor, uneducated people kiss I suppose! lol (sorry mum) but thats just one of the things that makes my mother ‘beautifully unique’. It’s very interesting how we relate to money depending on our circumstances and cultural setting. How in a social setting, the mention of money can be an insult in the west but in the east its a gesture of love and appreciation. Thats why we give money instead of gifts at Vietnamese weddings for example :). This very subject can be found in Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational.

    When the family asked Heidi for money for her mother’s care, reminds me of the Worldvision call for help, where if you sponsor a child for $30 a month, not only will you be helping the child but also the people in his or her immediate environment – except in this case its her own mother. Very sad indeed.

    At the end, her mother did say that all she wants was her daughter back. Some of the messages that was lost in translation was frustrating in this film for me. Also, the high expectations would not have helped her daughter’s situation either, like going to see a movie and expecting it to be great! you just set yourself up for great disappointment.

    I just hope that Heidi can look beyond the cultural differences and the tactless nature of the poor and uneducated in Vietnam and write to her mother to tell her how she feels. At the very least Heidi will not be living with guilt for not giving herself the best chance to re-unite and for the love to grow with her one and only mother. This will be a great demonstration of love and strength to Heidi’s young daughters when they grow up.

    I wish them all the happiness they will be able to bring into each other’s life. After all, what is money without life and love.

  11. This film was very sad for me especially towards the end as it showed her mother eating poor quality food with tears in her eyes as she knows that her daughter has abandoned her. When hiedi came I can tell the famil went all putti provide her with a big quality meal I’m sure that took a lot out of their income to manage that for her. It’s sad as hiedi appears very naive for someone comming from a country that provided we access to materials and resources she could have access if she was seriously interested in understanding more about her culture she could have prepared herself on some basics of what to expect. Off course relationships and bonding will not blossom over night it has to be made by effort by both sides and I believe thou the family may not be wise to ask someone they just met no longer then a wk for money they obviously did it out of desperation considering they may not see her for years or ever so they want to through it out there while she is hear with and interpreter since her family in Vietnam Wong have the financial means to educate themselves and thus unable to affectingly communicate their true feelings across with out sounding too full on. Jus knowing the family were so proud to show her off to the community only to be left embarrassed years later that her daughter left them in te same poor situation that is shameful and I’m sure a cause for great pain for the mother knowin her daughter saw how poor she is and still turned her back on her when she knows her mother needed the
    Money. This obviously really emotionally draining for Hiedi however she is a gown women now not a child she should be able to process the situation with more
    Empathy for those who are less better off and understands I have a bigger heart for your own mother it’s not like they are asking her to support the whole family just her own mum she probably doesn’t even know just $30 goes along way.

    I’m full Vietnamese I have lived in. Australia since I arrived at 6years of age. Even I did some researched prior to visiting my homeland to prepare myself for what to expect and thus was not surprised but felt humbled to be apart of everything even though the quality of log was low compared to what I’m used to I loved every bit and embraced the experience and made me appreciate life and my people more the suffering they went through after years of war and so I know how to empathize for their struggled today. Im glad I live in australia for many reasons of course like hiedi however if I had a mum back there I would never turn my back on her even if I don’t feel any connection I would still feel the need to make sure she lives a decent quality of life because I’m around and still able to take care of her even from another country thus $30 a month goes a long way to say I’m here.

  12. I don’t understand why people are still continue to believes that Heidi reaction is so wrong. It is not about the money, I don’t think that she broke down at the end because she have to send money to her birth mother every month; come on, the young lady is in a lot of pains. As the age of 8, she had to leaved her familiar surrounding, her mother, her country, all by herself so that she could be save. I must say, it is so humane and noble of her birth mother to give her up like that, and I believe that Heidi did mentioned it in the film. But, it is right to say that Heidi have to pay back her birth mother for given her up? No, because it is THE MOTHER JOB to keep her children save, just like when Heidi birth mother had to worked at the American base so that she could feeds her children, even thought people are looking down on her. That is what Mother does, she feeds her children and keeps her children save.
    OK, I know, someone reading this and say, it is a “Vietnamese culture” for children to taking care of parents at old age. Yes, I agreed, it is a culture things for a Vietnamese; Heidi Bub is not a Vietnamese, she is 100% American, she don’t even know how to eat Vietnamese foods. (there are delicious by the way) I was dismayed and shocked that the family were so straightforward about “filial piety” to Heidi, It was sooo uncomfortable to watch, I feels so bad for the young woman. I don’t why I keep going on about this, I think it is so unfair that people are so hard on Heidi. I believe that she is financially struggle just like everyone, we could tells by watching the film. Beside, Heidi have 2 small children, I don’t think she is working?
    Her husband is in the military, I don’t think the government pay much? They lived in navy housing. So, even $30-$50 a month counts. Let say, even Heidi manage to have an extra $50 a months, that $50 should be save toward her children education, because the well-being of her children IS Heidi responsibility. As for Heidi birth mother, I don’t see her as a victim of an abandonment, she might be lacking in materialistic, but, she is surrounding by loves, from her husband, her children and grandchildren, and that is priceless. I am sincerely wish that Heidi find peace and happiness, and I hope that she will come back to Vietnam with her family for a vacation. Vietnam is beautiful, do visit Ho Chi Minh city, Nha trang, Hoi An, (near to danang) Ha Long bay. Omg, it was amazing. My 8 years old daughter cry at the airport, she did not want to leave.

  13. Powerful and thought provoking movie, I watched this movie last night 01/08/2012 and stayed up late to watch it.

    Most of the previous comments written I totally agree with and empathise for Heidi and her birth Mother.

    1.Firstly Heidi would have fault abandoned by her birth mother(Now was Heidi giving up because her mother was already married, and given away as a chil because of shaming the family, or genuine reasons, a better life)?
    2.No natural affection from her adopted mother and then disowned

    3.Overwhelmed by the clash of cultures and no understanding, practically just chucked in the deep-end. That lady that supposedly help her and accompanied Heidi on the trip could have helped Heidi alot more.

    (Also I noted that the children were given away as it was mentioned that the parents were threatened that their mixed race children with be burnt)?

    In Australia and New Zealand mixed race children were taken from their families and placed in missions, because they believed the children would be better off watch the movie (The Rabbit Proof Fence) in Australia the lost children are called “The Stolen Generation”.

    Then they make out that they are helping these poor children to have a better life, perhaps YES some have, but then you get children that grow up with anger issues, as they feel lost and disconnected and feel that they dont belong anywhere.

  14. Hi I was wondering if there is anyway to edit my last blog post as it has spelling mistakes :(

  15. The documentary was directed by Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco. Gail passed away in 2010, but we were able to get in touch with Vicente, who’s just returned from filming in Ethiopia.
    He gave us the following update on Heidi Bub and Mai Thi Kim.
    “Both Heidi and her Vietnamese family are doing fine within their means. The family has suffered a couple of blows, with one of Heidi’s half sisters recently dying of cancer. Heidi’s mother has been struggling with her own health.
    “Back in the US, Heidi’s own family has been on the move. Due to her husband’s continuing career in the navy, they were living in Germany for a couple of years before more recently returning to the USA while he pursues his education as a ship commander.
    “Heidi and her mother have not met again.
    “Heidi has chosen not to keep in touch with her Vietnamese family, since doing so brings her too much pain. It’s a decision many of us find hard to understand but we have to be respectful of Heidi’s feelings  
and sentiments.”

  16. Thanks for the update, Marcos.

    For the rest of you–why the resumed interest in this film after all this time? Was it recently shown on television or re-released?

  17. it was shown on tv in Australia.
    I found the documentary sad.
    The predictablity in its outcome does not diminish the intensity of the heaviness of the sadness for both Heidi and her birth mother.
    It certainly is not fair to be angry with Heidi or her birth mother. Heidi certainly had no choice in what happened to her as a child. Heidi’s birth mother did what she could to look after her existing children without any husband supporting her. But I think that you can be angry with Heidi’s adopting mother. She CHOSE to adopt Heidi. Her treatment of Heidi is disgraceful.

  18. I’m not sure if it has shown recently on PBS here in America or not. I happened across it in the streaming section of Netflix and watched it with my husband a couple nights ago. For me–and for him too– everything having to do with that war and the ramifications of that war are indelibly etched in our generation and our lives. Vietnam was and is our generation’s WWII. It touched us all in some way and haunts us still–coming back to us when we hear a story of a homeless Vietnam Vet who has frozen to death in Minneapolis in the winter or a story of a child of war like Heidi–who finds her mother after 27 yrs.
    Our WAR lasted over 10 yrs but in some ways and for many former servicemen and servicewomen it never ended. For many of these children–now adults–fathered by our own servicemen–AMERICANS– this war haunts them forever, too. If you weren’t around at the time, you have no idea what the end of this terrible war and the sight of those last minute final desperate flights out of Saigon did to our national psyches and emotions. Watch “The Deer Hunter” and it will give you an idea. You don’t know what the sight of these little children and babies did to our hearts and our minds–they were on TV every day, every night and in every magazine and newspaper We ALL wanted to adopt one of these children– maybe we all thought it would uplift us from the despair this war had wrought– save a child–something good after something so awful. Some may have been adopted by a parent or parents who treated them well and gave them the love and stability necessary to overcome their traumatic childhoods. I think Heidi’s adoptive mother thought she was doing the right thing, adopting Heidi. She wasn’t married and must have thought she wasn’t likely to be married and perhaps thought a child would fill her need for love. She was obviously a very strict and emotionally remote individual(just as she had been raised according to her brother) who may have greatly benefited from Therapy and Counseling but she apparently never got it. Children learn what they live and Heidi lived with someone who seems to have difficulty with personal relationships and relating to others. Heidi’s birth mother gave her away–in her eyes–sent her away to a foreign country and the woman who adopted her and replaced her mother disavowed Heidi when she was in college because she appeared to be developing her own life–as young adults do!!
    It appeared that Heidi had little to no preparation before going off to a country she hardly knows anything about, and a culture she had no inkling of understanding because she had no exposure to it at all. In fact, her adopted mother had told her to never reveal her true ethnicity to anyone. If I were to meet her on the street, I would think she was born and raised in America. I am angry at the people who set this whole meeting of birth mother and daughter up, so they could film this documentary, for not properly preparing her for this life shattering event! They should have had enough compassion for their subjects to at least have Heidi counseled on what to expect before they left. As is painfully obvious, some social experiments work and some do not. Some people/some children adapt and some do not……. So irrevocably heartbreaking in the end.
    I can see both sides. My heart breaks for Heidi’s biological mother; she did what she thought was best for her child and has paid the price no mother wants to pay–the loss of that child forever. My heart breaks for Heidi as well. She deserved to grow up with love, nurturing, and compassion—a nice home, food, and clothing are all fine and good but they do not take the place of love. Heidi and her husband seem to be committed to each other and she loves her own children. If this is as much as she can handle then who are we to judge. This was a very powerful story and unfortunately, it seems, one that will continue to repeat itself… there are so many Heidi’s out there, foreign and domestic. They should have used the Peter, Paul, and Mary song, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” at the end of the documentary…..the phrase “…when will they ever learn…” forever runs through my mind.

  19. I am watching this documentary for a University level course on the representation of difference. I came across this documentary on you tube and I think it explores some major issues and trends within the media. For me, I am more concerned with the way that Heidi’s Americanisation effects her gaze on the non-western and the way the camera perpetuates this.
    I just wanted to raise a few issues that others have mentioned. I was perplexed by what I have read about Heidi’s reaction. I do not think it is fair to judge her overemotional response to the money situation.
    Even though her Vietnamese family was poor, they did put on some great meals for Heidi but it also appears that she paid for a lot of them. I so pose that her western expectations would have made her uncomfortable with this and the latter situation.
    Her Mother and extended family are on totally different playing fields in terms of what is culturally appropriate. This is represented by the emotional scene but also with all the affection that Heidi receives. She says she feels smothered at one stage. She reluctantly engages in cuddles and kisses from her Mother but it’s not something the western world outwardly expresses to one another – let alone a Mother that she barely knows.
    I think there are also major boundaries Heidi has put up to deal with her loss as a child but also the estrangement of her adoptive parent. This would certainly have an effect on how she embraces this new family, and I think we can see the major problem coming before it all happens.
    A comment earlier pointed out that the Mother is portrayed as eating poor quality food and crying about her losses. These shots interrupt a different sequence of Heidi back home with her family. This doesn’t necessarily mean that her Vietnamese Mother was filmed at the same time. It is used for emotional effect and contrast but I do think that the producers would want the viewer to remember it in that way.
    I found this page of comments really interesting. It has shed some light on differing perspectives people hold in relation to these issues, and has helped me to look at a few things differently.

  20. this was on ABC TV in Aus a few months ago and had a profound effect on me. I think of it often as my brother married a woman from Vietnam.

    I think that Heidi was just totally unprepared for what the reality of her family reunion was going to be like. Nothing could have prepared her any better though. I actually have a lot of empathy for her over most others in the film.

    She’s had a pretty tumultuous life, we only got one side of the story, but I just can’t believe her adopted mother kicked her out like that.

    What stuck with me the most and what noone has mentioned, was that her Mum had a child with another man (a foreigner) and then the dad to the other siblings came back. How that continued to go on and how he treated Heidi amazed me.

    Also couldn’t believe the first thing her mum said to her was ‘you take me with you go back!’ in my opinion this was ridiculous behaviour by her Mum and just shows how far apart they are.

    Huge culture clash and breakdown at the end of the film. in regards to the family expecting support, It wasnt so much the money (never mind the fact that Heidi has 2 kids, lives pretty modestly by US standards and presumably paid a fair chunk for the airfare, dinners and things over there) that freaked her out, she was just overwhelmed by the fact that she was after emotional support and closure, they were looking to get something more material in addition. To everyone saying ‘oh she was so selfish, she could have sent $20 per month’ remember the situation on the day of her breakdown. bad translator present, huge few days leading up, theyd just asked her to take her mum who she doesn’t know to go live with her in US, and a few days before she had already given her sister hiep some money and Hiep just asked for more!

    On balance, when she returned and things had settled, she could have looked at it and other situations in the cold light of day and sent a bit over, but I can understand why she was worried that they would just continually have their hand out for more. and I can totally understand why she reacted with such shock the way she did on the 2nd last day.

    Great Movie! Hats off to the film makers.

  21. I just watched this film on Netflix and haven’t totally processed it. I am an African-American and have lived nowhere else, although I’ve lived in different parts of the country. I am not sure about my feelings toward Heidi. To me, she seems like the typical white American. I don’t consider that good or bad, just reality. The reason I mention it is because her reaction is somewhat different than I believe mine would be. My culture is to help family members, not at the expense of my immediate family, but to help out. I don’t help people (family or not) who are not trying to help themselves by doing the best they can. Also, I don’t accept being used by others. Heidi’s Vietnamese family did not appear to be lazy or waiting for handouts. I thought Hedi’s mother’s emotions were genuine.

    Because of the history of my ancestors in this country, I have problems with seeing people disconnected from their heritage. Maybe this is what personally bothers me about this film. Heidi, and therefore her children, will have no attachment with their Vietnamese heritage.

    I think in general, Americans (all of us) have issues related to cultural biases. We seem to think that we are the only people in the world and that the way we do things is the only way, or, at the least, the best way. Americans seem to have problems understanding other cultures. Worse than that, sometimes we don’t don’t even see the need to learn about other cultures. This film underscored these things tremendously for me.

  22. I just watched this video with my parents who were both born in Vietnam. They escaped the war and immigrated to Canada where we all still reside. I grew up knowing only my immediately family. I didn’t have grandparents, I didn’t have aunt’s or uncles and I didn’t have cousins because majority of our family lived in Vietnam.

    Growing up, I remember my parents receiving those late night phone calls from Vietnam and it was always someone calling for my mom to send money overseas. I will admit when these calls came in, I always felt sorry for my mom, because to me, it felt like she was being taken advantage of. I didn’t understand why they only called my mom when I had an uncle in Florida who seemed to be more well off than my family. However, what I never noticed was how far and few between these calls came. My mom said she wasn’t always in the position to send money and that was ok. The sheer fact that she did what she could, when she could, was more than enough for my extended family.

    After the movie was done, I turned to my mom who was sitting on the couch with tears falling from her cheeks and asked her how she felt about this movie. She was absolutely heartbroken to see Mai Thi Kim dealing with her own heartbreak from losing her daughter not once, but twice, with the second time being Heidi’s decision. We were so upset that Heidi decided to “close the door” on her family in Vietnam. My mom explained to me that she understood why the burden of money overwhelmed Heidi, because she has been there before. However, we were exceptionally upset that in the movie her brother outlined that IF Heidi help, great. IF SHE COULDN’T that was fine too, but they didn’t want her leaving feeling as if money is all they wanted from her. I was able to see that they wanted build a relationship with her. Didn’t one of her cousin’s say that her visit wasn’t enough time to get to know her and they hope she would return so they could do that? Her brother said he even wanted to learn English so that he could write to her and explain the misunderstanding. I think the hardest part was hearing her own mother say, “This poor child. When she looks at me, she thinks all I want is money. But when I look at her, all I see is love.”

    How on Earth do you “close the door” on someone who feels that way about you?

    I sincerely hope Heidi was able to watch this movie and see it in the viewer’s perspective. To see her mother at the end barely able to eat with the sadness in her face, I hope she sees the heartbreak this woman has endured and realizes she isn’t sad because she has no money and lives the only lifestyle she knows, but because her long lost daughter had decided to shut her out completely. I hope Heidi is able to see that family is why we all live an breath in the first place.

  23. I left a long message on Sept 2 this year, because this documentary so moved me. If you read the other comments left you will find the following which updates us all a little :
    MARCOS says:
    August 2, 2012 at 8:57 pm
    The documentary was directed by Gail Dolgin and Vicente Franco. Gail passed away in 2010, but we were able to get in touch with Vicente, who’s just returned from filming in Ethiopia.
    He gave us the following update on Heidi Bub and Mai Thi Kim.
    “Both Heidi and her Vietnamese family are doing fine within their means. The family has suffered a couple of blows, with one of Heidi’s half sisters recently dying of cancer. Heidi’s mother has been struggling with her own health.
    “Back in the US, Heidi’s own family has been on the move. Due to her husband’s continuing career in the navy, they were living in Germany for a couple of years before more recently returning to the USA while he pursues his education as a ship commander.
    “Heidi and her mother have not met again.
    “Heidi has chosen not to keep in touch with her Vietnamese family, since doing so brings her too much pain. It’s a decision many of us find hard to understand but we have to be respectful of Heidi’s feelings 
and sentiments.”

    My husband and I felt like some others, that the documentary maker did not prepare Heidi at all for what she was walking into. It was all too much having such a large extended family and a very different culture thrown at her at once. She should have been introduced to everything and everyone slowly and one thing at a time, giving her the space to digest it all and understand what was happening and her feelings. The lack of knowledge of the culture combined with the extreme emotions of such a reunion…..how can anyone say how they would react. And we can only guess at what the experience of being torn from your family, sent to a foreign country, adopted and raised by an emotionally remote single mother who raises you to keep your true identity secret–what does that do to a person? How does the belief, the feeling, that you were sent away, or worse, abandoned by your family your whole life—how does that effect the way you relate to others? It is beyond heartbreaking that Heidi has never been able to overcome her initial reaction to meeting her Vietnamese family and her misunderstanding of their intent in reconnecting with her. She has her husband and her daughters and beyond that she appears unable to allow anyone else in. And for her true mother in Vietnam, Mai…..a loss and a heartbreak she carries with her every day and for all her life.

  24. This film is so disturbing on so many levels. First of all I am curious as to why her adopted mother take her if she wanted her to hide her identity to other and pretend to be white. And why did not the first lady who went with her not school her on the very different culture she would be walking into. Also why did she not realize she would be visiting a third world country where even basic necessities are sometimes lacking.

    The problem is that she went into this project with rose colored glasses and they were clouded by reality and the harshness of life.Her demeanor was so standoffish it was positively insulting and rude. Did anyone see when her mother kissed her and she inadvertently wiped it off?

    I find it interesting that initially she wanted to find out why she was given up perhaps with feelings of abandonment but as she realized the story of her birth that quickly took a back seat. She must have been thanking her lucky stars on the inside that she was transported to America. The fact that she has never taken the time to even respond to her mom with the pre addressed envelope speaks volume of her not wanting to be bothered anymore. She got her answer so on with her life and let bygones be bygones. But her family still lives in poverty, a sister has died and she could care less. As someone else mentioned her mother had an affair but her husband was not going to throw her under the bus and was willing to raise her as his own.

    She is making no effort to learn more about the other half of her heritage or teach her girls anything about their other family. While I would not call her selfish as we don’t know what someone will do unless we walk a mile in their shoe, she is very one sided and has stopped herself from forming a relationship with her bio-mom. I wonder how this would have played out if she found out her family came from royalty or the Vietnamese elite.
    Money talks and unfortunately so does her actions. Even if she was only able to send them ten dollars monthly I am quite sure they would really appreciate it.

  25. At first watching..my heart felt sorrow and happiness for heidi. As the show progressed with her time in danang i truly felt she was selfish. Sure she endured much and great pain. Her mother gave her a gift regardless. Yes they ask for money…does she even try to understand. That life there is so much harder. We as americans are so unaware of our blessings. If she stayed back there she may have a clue of this desperation from her family to survive. Shes damn lucky she has family period that obviously cares f r her. Some of us here in the states dont have that and we also had some crap cards dealt to us too. If my birth mother showed me that love and i could return anything i would. Wheres ann i ask?

  26. So much has been debated about the americanised daughter and the grieving mother. Bottomline, the mother is still living in poverty in that village. This is an award winning documentary that has been broadcasted over and over again. Did the film maker not get paid by the tv stations? Why don’t they set aside a certain percentage of whatever money is made from the documentary and give it to the poor old lady? I feel she had been exploited by the film maker.

  27. I’ve just watched this. How horrible to witness the lack of understanding and compassion from both sides. I felt it wasn’t going to end well as soon as Heidi expressed her expectations before the trip that every bad feeling would be erased at the reunion. This is such an incredibly childlike attitude. Her adoptive parents aparently gave her no chance at emotional maturity. And really, the family in Vietnam Nam were wrong to rush her on caring for a mother who abandoned her, even if the intention was good. As for the overarching conditions that led to this, I’m ashamed yet again for the US where we have so much money and so little humanity.

  28. I just watched this last night on Netflix. Perhaps you folks (that think Heidi was selfish) and I would handle things differently than Heidi. But then again, we likely come from different backgrounds than her. I believe you’re not giving enough consideration for the emotional torment Heidi has gone through with her “parent” figures both at home and abroad. I am so thankful that I do not have to walk in her shoes. I can’t imagine being faced with her situation and making her decisions. But one thing I could not conclude about Heidi from what I’ve learned is that she is selfish. I think she was searching for some identity completeness and healing, but she got the opposite of completeness and healing. So she is continuing to try to build upon her own identity completeness with her husband and children – and that is beautiful. I do feel sad for her “family” abroad. But Heidi’s first responsibility is to get, and keep, her own life and family in order. From what I’ve learned, she seems to have enough of the most important ingredient, love, to be able to make that happen.

  29. Look, there is a simple explanation for what happened. I know enough and have traveled in the Far East enough to understand their culture. The elderly there have no retirement and no nursing homes, no social security, and it is a moral obligation on the part of children to take care of their parents in their old age. The deal is this: they gave you life and raised you with sacrifice and now it’s your turn. That they exhibit this cultural tendency is understandable. If Heidi would have known this and understood it, she would not have been floored. Although her being parted from her mother was an emotional trauma, she led a pretty good life, especially materially, in the U,.S. complete with healthy kids and a doting husband. Her mother has never known such a life. Heidi could have taken care of the situation much better if she were more mature. She should have told her Vietnamese family, “Look, I am not rich like you think I am, but I will help as much as possible. I can’t promise how much.” Don’t tell me she couldn’t have sent $25 to $50 per month. That’s a lot of money for a Vietnamese. In the Philippines, of which I am familiar, they work for $2 a day on average. It’s probably less in Vietnam. For the life of me, I could not treat my brothers and sisters and mother, like Heidi did. I would have sucked it all in, bit the bullet, and helped as much as possible. The movie reveals how self-centered American culture really is.

  30. I don’t think $25-50 is enough…..minimum is $400 even not really enough for 4 peoples with 2 children go to school….so with big family has to be more…nowadays things going up $50 = VND1.000.000 not

  31. Wow! ungrateful and greedy woman. Her mother sends her off for a better life and Heidi can’t spare some spare change to help her struggling family. I started watching and sympathizing with Heidi. But she started to complain about being hugged and kissed too much…so being loved by a mother who has waited for the day to finally hug you…is a bad thing?!
    Outraged in her self centered manner. and then she had a mini break down because of a request to assist the family.I have no words at the frustration i felt when watching that scene. My family left Egypt to Australia when i was just 2 and i am now 27. They left their homes, family, friends and life to provide me and siblings that followed a better life. They studied a d worked while caring for me and my siblings. I can say i have been very blessed in my life, great education, job, home etc. And this is thanks to my parents. As they age i will try and give them the love and support that they gave me. I donate money to different charities, i dont need an emotional connection to hand money over for a good cause. For Heidi to complain she cant help and doesn’t know them make me sit there in shock.

    I have gone to visit my remaining relatives in Egypt a couple of times. father’s side is very well off and mothers side encounters great struggles. And both very kindly would request gifts and cash. It can be upsetting but only from those who i see are very well off and are trying to “jump on the money train”.The well off side ask for extravagant things and it does cause a little frustration but i now understand its because television gives them the perception the we don’t work as hard as they do. I would give them gifts but with caution and emphasis that its infrequent. The struggling family ask for very little and are greatful for whatever is given. So i dont even think twice to help them. I don’t really know them, but i know they are family and i know they let us all go in and helped us leave…for a better life for ourselves. I think Heidi isnt very honest when she says all contact from them is them requesting money. I think they would play on the pitty card somewhat but would be treading lightly after witnessing her previous hissy fit.

    One day her children will grow up and will hate her affection and will not be there for her when she needs them.

  32. Wow, just saw this last night on Australian TV, at first I thought like most “oh she could give them something and probably should have realised they would hope for something” but then I realised none of them seemed to actually care about Heidi, I didn’t hear the mother once ask how her life had been, had she been cared for and loved after being torn away from her Mother and family and not knowing why. Maybe if they had of shown any interest in how it affected Heidi instead of constantly asking for money she would have wanted to get to know them better and help in any way she could. The Mother only slept with Heidi’s American Father because she wanted money off him. I’m so proud of Heidi for turning into a loving Mother considering what she has gone through, don’t look back Heidi, you’ve done well for yourself, your husband and children love you, don’t look back xxx

  33. Hi
    I have just watched this film and here are my thoughts on it……
    I think no one should judge Heidi, this is a woman who lost so much when she was given up for adoption. The significant emotional impacts of this are huge and then to travel back to find her family only to have them ask for money would just add to the emotional rejection she would already be carrying. How does she feel valued and loved for just being her with this expectation thrust on her? Heidi has had nothing but conditional love all her life from her adoptive mother and now it seems from her birth family too. They asked way to soon, not allowing the bonds of unconditional love to develop first. What a sad, sad story. I wish Heidi all the love in the world, something she truly deserves. I am so glad she has her own beautiful children to give her what she has never fully had, love for just being her.

  34. I have shown this movie in my intercultural communication classes since I first saw it on PBS. The students find it emotional, and their comments are similar to the ones posted here.

    For me, it is not hard to understand the point-of-view of Heidi or her Vietnamese family.
    No need to repeat the reasons given by others, but I would like to respond to the argument that even $10 a month would not be much for Heidi. That might be the case, but based on her half-sisters response (You give me more, pay for my kids to go to school.), I can easily rationalize why she might not choose to send even $10.
    Concerning the negative comments by previous posts on the selfishness of Americans, I disagree. Americans are very quick to support charities and international crises. On the other hand, I suspect most of us do not expect the recipient to demand more, even if the recipient is a relative. So beyond the lower degree of responsibility for one’s parents and siblings in American values, the unfolding of the interaction following such a gift is an additional cultural expectation.

    If you haven’t already, I suggest those interested in learning more visit the website for the film. The wonderful collection of information answers many questions about the video and the people shown.

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