Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis campus only



First Advisor

Patrick Keating

Second Advisor

Jie Zhang


Although many fiction films exist about the role of memory in the Vietnam War, few documentaries have taken up this subject in an educational and innovative way. This absence is concerning because testimonies offer stunning revelations regarding the aftermath of conflict, such as repressed memories of survivors and post-war erasures. Contextually, the Communist victory that ended the Vietnam War in April 1975 resulted in a two-decade-long refugee crisis. Following the Fall of Saigon, Southern Vietnamese people sought refuge via overcrowded ships and were dubbed "boat people." Yet there is more to the story. The burden of this unsettled history has divided the Vietnamese diaspora communities across the United States, yet it remains an underexplored topic almost half a century after.

In To Live To Tell (2020), survivors and overseas Vietnamese share stories about their individual journeys to form a collective collage of experiences. In Vietnam, there was one history. In the United States, there was another. Yet, neither were complete. Therefore, the idea of transnationalizing Vietnam and tracing the ties that connect diasporic Vietnamese to each other and to their homeland is crucial in understanding the complete narrative. Individuals from various backgrounds consisting of blue collar workers, white collar workers, musicians, scholars and local dignitaries share their stories on how they constructed their bicultural identities in a foreign land. Each story offers refreshing perspectives on what it is to be Vietnamese. At the center of the film is a message to the Vietnamese youth of tomorrow and how music is used for self-expression, community building, and cultural preservation. This feature film is the director's personal journey exploring the “gray area” of Vietnamese history and honoring their identity, traditions, and culture.