When folks inquire about my research on Second Indochina War cinemas,1 they usually ask where they can watch the movies I am analysing. “YouTube” I would answer, and they would laugh. It is true and it is odd. Following my elaborations about these films’ high stakes (they revolve around traumatic loss, enduring grief, and forced displacement), YouTube comes across as a punchline, funny because the platform on which I view these films also house conspiracy theories and Vine compilations. And yet, it is the only place where I can access titles from North and South Vietnam without having to visit the National Film Institute in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City. Unlike Hollywood dramatisations of the conflict, Vietnamese films cannot be found on popular streaming services or film festivals’ retrospective programs. The situation is just as complicated in Vietnam; only films the Communist Party deems worthy of preservation are stored at the National Film Institute. Western marginalisation and communist omission leave YouTube as an alternative platform where one can watch films that resist the ideological confines to which the United States (US) and Vietnam have subjected canonical depictions of the War. YouTube allows those interested in these films to shirk geographical boundaries and consume the texts from the comfort of their own homes and in their own time. 

But the flexibility comes with a cost: the films may disappear at any given moment, removed by the accounts that uploaded them or by YouTube for copyright infringements. Indeed, these films are pirated; they are counterfeit products replicated and circulated without the copyright owner’s permission.2 As piracy imposes certain conditions on the images exhibited,3 the films and their versions are replete with flaws. Their playback quality rarely exceeds 360p, their sounds distorted, and their images pixelated. 

The comments on these YouTube videos (and the fact that I keep returning to them for my research) tell me that visual and audio quality does not hinder the videos’ perceived cultural and historical significance. On one upload of Đất Khổ (Land of Sorrows, Hà Thúc Cần, 1973-4),4 one user commented: “Fantastic movie that should be seen and appreciated by all. Thank you very much for posting this nearly lost gem…” Land of Sorrows’ value stems from what the video claims in its opening credits: the film supposedly contains on-the-ground footage of the Battle of Hue – “the only extant Cinemascope footage of Vietnam taken during that time.” (Figure 1) Land of Sorrows’ survival is also treasured due to the urban legend that producer George Washnis, hoping to protect the film from being destroyed, whisked it from Saigon in the early hours of communist advancement. Land of Sorrows resurfaced in 2007 when Washnis collaborated with an American distribution company to release the film on DVD.5 Thanks to piracy, Land of Sorrows is now available to anybody with access to YouTube. The two full-movie uploads on the site have accumulated 226 000 views, indicating thus the film’s enduring resonance despite its exhibition in low resolution.6 

Figure 1: A screenshot of Land of Sorrows’ opening credits

This essay studies the phenomenon that Land of Sorrows exemplifies by examining South Vietnamese cinema’s afterlife on the internet and its significance to the diaspora’s memories of the Second Indochina War. Building on Kuhu Tanvir’s conceptualisation of the “pirate archive”,7 I position YouTube as integral to the maintenance of South Vietnamese memories of the War and the lost country; pirated films on the video-sharing platform on the one hand transport viewers to a vivid past and, on the other, remind them of their distance from a lost object of desire. YouTube, as an inadvertent film archive, preserves a national identity linked to the now-defunct Republic of Vietnam through the users’ illegal uploading of South Vietnamese films. This act of piracy also resists American amnesia about, as well as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’s (SRVN) erasure of, South Vietnamese contribution towards the War. 

The War for Memories

After the Fall of Saigon, South Vietnam became a memory in both the new SRVN and the US.8 When the northern People’s Army claimed Saigon on April 30 1975, they instigated an exodus of South Vietnamese refugees, who sought asylum in Australia, France, and the US to escape imminent communist brutality. Their fears became a reality as people disappeared en masse or were imprisoned in so-called “reeducation camps”. The Communist Party erased any trace of a society committed to political plurality and activism.9 The representation of South Vietnamese culture and society – its films – is nowhere mentioned in the official historiography of Vietnamese cinema.10 The Vietnamese film archives, upholding the Communist Party’s objectives, omit films produced in South Vietnam and films that portray reeducation camps or refugees.11 South Vietnamese refugees who found a new home in the US confront a similar institutionalised amnesia of their wartime experiences. Public memorials were erected to exclusively honour American suffering while      Hollywood movies overlooked South Vietnamese soldiers’ contributions in favour of G.I.’s philosophical ruminations.12 That the conflict is more widely known as the “Vietnam War” in the Western imagination, a term that continues to signify “Vietnam” as a country torn by conflict and eviscerated by napalm, ironically marginalises Vietnamese perspectives. 

Against the confluence of American amnesia and SRVN’s erasure, the South Vietnamese diaspora in the US opts for alternative ways to commemorate their lost country and loved ones. From beauty pageants to community demonstrations,13  public events are organised to articulate what Yến Lê Esperitu calls “the complex political subjectivity of Vietnamese refugees in the diaspora: a tangle of nostalgia for the former Republic of Vietnam, antipathy for the current government of Vietnam, and resentment of America’s ‘abandonment’ of its South Vietnamese allies.”14 The advent of the Internet brought this articulation online. “Countermemorials” are created in the forms of websites, videos, and blogs to remember soldiers in tandem to the country they fought for.15

YouTube – launched in 2005 as a video-sharing platform – became another hub for South Vietnamese memories. The website functions like a “blank DVD”16 on which users can upload their own contents and assume responsibility for the contents’ legality. Across different YouTube accounts, viewers may find homemade videos on key battles fought by South Vietnamese people or in memoriam videos of Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) soldiers.17 Created using rudimentary software available on home computers, these videos consist of documentary footage spliced with either stock images of the War or personal photographs of fallen soldiers. The videos’ production alone highlights how the distinction between collective and personal memories are rarely straight-forward, least of all in the case of South Vietnamese internet countermemorials. As creators then upload these videos to YouTube, they effectively share personal thoughts and affects related to the conflict with publics unrestrained by geographical boundaries. Comments under the English-language video “Re-establishing the Honor of South Vietnam” share the frustration with America’s undermining of South Vietnamese heroes (“I grew up having to stomach the slander about our people being taught to every kid in school here in the US”)18 and sympathy for family members subjected to reeducation camps (“around 2014-ish (grandfather’s) PTSD had begun to catch up with him, and he slowly devolved mentally”).19

While the amateur nature of these videos prevents them from being circulated in official channels such as television or museum exhibits, YouTube offers an informal site on which the diasporic complex political subjectivity may be shared and validated. 

Of interest to this essay are the catalogues of South Vietnamese films also found on diasporic YouTube accounts. 20 (Figure 2) Unlike the countermemmorial videos, South Vietnamese films are known to circulate amongst the diaspora in the United States as a part of community film festival programs or as mass-produced DVDs. The films’ preservation on the video-sharing platform beckons not just consideration of their significance to the diaspora, but also how viewing conditions mitigate the community’s political subjectivity. In what follows, I will locate the key themes in these films as well as conditions of their preservation and circulation, both of which work in tandem to maintain certain memories of the War. 

Figure 2: South Vietnamese films on user USAVSC – UNVR’s account

South Vietnamese Cinema

Despite its rich offerings, the YouTube film catalogues are far from complete; early studies of South Vietnamese cinema suggest that hundreds of films were produced during the nation-state’s short life between 1955 and 1975. 21 Only two dozen of these films are on YouTube. These limited catalogues still elucidate some of the storylines, genres, and subject matter that appealed to South Vietnamese people prior to the Fall of Saigon. These films rely on heterosexual romantic relationships and gender norms to convey emotions the South Vietnamese felt in the early ‘70s. 

The noteworthy films below express anxiety towards the formation of South Vietnam’s national identity, as well as its perceived imminent destruction: 

  • Người Tình Không Chân Dung (Faceless Lover or Warrior, Who Are You?, Hoàng Vĩnh Lộc, 1972): Perhaps the most well-known film amongst the South Vietnamese diaspora, Faceless Lover follows protagonist Mỹ Lan as she searches for her fiancé, whom she never met. Along the way, she encounters scores of men, who each represent a different aspirational national identity for the newly formed South Vietnam. As the fiancé dies before he becomes truly known to Mỹ Lan and the spectator, the ideal South Vietnamese national identity similarly remains in the dark.
  • Xa Lộ Không Đèn (Highway without Lights, Hoàng Anh Tuấn, 1972): Highway without Lights portrays this search for a national identity as a struggle between traditional Vietnamese values and modern Western lifestyles imported by Americans. The female protagonist Liễu represents the latter as she becomes a hippy and a sex worker, to the chagrin of her impoverished and conservative parents. Liễu is punished for her transgressions by a gang rape, which communicates the film’s key message: South Vietnam must safeguard its      heritage and traditions against foreign influences. Without a proper education and the guidance of older generations like Liễu’s parents, South Vietnam would become a highway without lights: indiscriminately receptive to outside forces and dangerous.
  • Nắng Chiều (Afternoon Sun, Lê Mộng Hoàng, 1973): Although Afternoon Sun also uses rape as its central plot line, it is the virginal and ideal woman who is violated in the film. Here, demure Hiền falls in love with an ARVN soldier but cannot marry him after being raped by a village official. Where sexual violence serves as a punishment in Highway without Lights, Afternoon Sun uses rape to express anxieties about foreign intervention. Both films position      womanhood as the site on which traditional Vietnamese values and perceived American influence come to a head.  
  • Đất Khổ (Land of Sorrows): Land of Sorrows stars Trịnh Công Sơn, a famous anti-war Vietnamese singer-songwriter. As Quân, he travels between Saigon and Hue – the capital of Central Vietnam – and witnesses the violence of war. Quân’s siblings represent the diversity of South Vietnamese political ideologies while Quân himself stands for peace. The film is nevertheless doused in existentialism as it depicts the inevitability of death and displacement.
  • Giỡn Mặt Tử Thần (Tricking Death, Đỗ Tiến Đức, 1975): a rare horror-comedy amidst a slate of melodramas, Tricking Death revolves around Hạnh, who thinks she accidentally killed her husband in a fit of jealousy and must prevent the discovery of his death by her landlords and the police. The film then takes place predominantly in Hạnh’s bedroom – where the husband’s corpse remains under the bedsheets – and in her mind. As Hạnh grapples with her grief through interactions with the husband’s ghost, the film reflects a pressing concern for South Vietnam in 1975: the death of their fledgling nation. 

Together, these films suggest the prevalence of romance and melodrama in South Vietnamese cinema and early experimentations with other genres like horror and comedy. Gender plays a central role in cinematic articulations of the society’s most pressing issues. Men often symbolise the ideal national identity whereas appropriate expressions of womanhood tell spectators how the identity can be achieved and maintained. The films underscore how South Vietnamese national identity formation was caught between a rock and a hard place; it must resist the influences from the US – a foreign ally – and embrace the heritage it shared with North Vietnam – a domestic foe.22 This triangulation between South Vietnam – communist Vietnam – US continues today through the remembrance of the Second Indochina War.

Archiving National and Diasporic Memory

Several archive theories explain how YouTube sustains South Vietnamese memories by preserving the films. We may look to Karen F. Gracy’s idea of the “democratic digital archive,” which “offer(s) amateurs the opportunity to challenge the dominance of experts” and assert control over their cultural heritage.23 In this case, YouTube helps South Vietnamese people contest the historical amnesia and erasure sustained by American and Vietnamese authorities in national institutions. 

Diasporic Vietnamese scholars have offered their own interpretations of YouTube. Evyn Lê Esperitu Gandhi builds on Mike Featherstone’s “diasporic archive” to conceptualise the “subaltern digital archive”.24 Critical to both theories is the archive’s ability to transcend borders. Where the diasporic archive enables migrants to “maintain a distinct sense of cultural identity…within the borders of another nation-state,”25 the subaltern digital archive relies on the mobilisation of contents outside the purview of SRVN regulations. Esperitu Gandhi is right to point out that the preservation of South Vietnamese memories requires not just uploading the contents online but also sharing the videos without risking communist censorship.26

Finally, Lan Duong postulates an “archive of memory” to name sites that connote both absence and presence.27 The archive, Duong argues, can materialise as the Vietnamese National Film Institute given that it purports hegemonic memories of the War through a combination of omission and emphasis. YouTube emerges then as a competing archive of memory since the platform offers users (re)collections of memories that are otherwise made absent by official Vietnamese institutions. Archive theories provide a starting point to comprehend how YouTube sustains memories of South Vietnam and the Second Indochina War, through which the diasporic community contests American and communist historiography. 

While illuminating, archive theories alone do not account for the specificity of the medium (film) and exhibition, how one’s experience of the moving image is dynamic and changes accordingly. Considerations of YouTube’s infrastructure highlights how the platform does not conform to traditional understandings of the archive and may require further theorisation to account for both the platform’s eclecticism and the case study’s medium specificity. Foremost, “archive”’s etymology connotes a spatial fixity:28 the contents will remain at this one place, which people visit if they want to consult the materials. Removal and modification of the contents by visitors are forbidden. In contrast, the films on YouTube may be shared to a different site using the URL – Uniform Resource Locator – or the embedding of codes. They may be downloaded by users and reuploaded, modified, spliced, and kept in their personal collections. Our understanding of YouTube as an archive must then also contend with the fact that the platform enables the simultaneous existence of multiple other archives. While they are connected, these archives may not share the same goals or be subject to the same regulations. Likewise, the films’ infinite duplication calls for recognition of how the copies’ quality impacts the viewer’s experience. 

It is on this very point – viewer’s experience or specifically the diaspora’s relationship to South Vietnam – that I want to concentrate before considering      YouTube as a pirate archive. The network splintering inherent to YouTube’s functionality behaves like memories. Acknowledging this likeness positions us well to appreciate the platform’s impact on the spectator’s relationship to the preserved films. Whereas the scholars cited above situate YouTube as a portal to memories, I look to Lucas Hilderbrand’s interpretation of YouTube, which expounds the site as memories themselves:

“Like memory (cultural or personal), YouTube is dynamic. It is an ever-changing clutter of stuff from the user’s past, some of which disappears and some of which remains overlooked, while new material is constantly being accrued and new associations or (literally, hypertext) links are being made.”29

Hilderbrand also proposes that while the aesthetics of these videos resemble memory’s imperfection, YouTube still supplements one’s memories (or stories we tell about an event). This description recalls a process Alison Landsberg identified as “prosthetic memory”.30 Landsberg contends that spectators can embody the memories of others when they watch a film, insomuch that this physical experience alters their subjectivity. I hope to show that consuming films through YouTube does something similar to the South Vietnamese diaspora, where they share and assume specific memories of the Second Indochina War. So much more than a traditional archive, as both preserver and distributor of South Vietnamese films, by operating like our memories (at times individual, at times shared and shareable), YouTube powerfully moulds the memories themselves.

YouTube as the Pirate Archive: Cinephilia, Poorness, and Decentralisation

Kuhu Tanvir’s theorisation of YouTube as a ‘pirate archive’ fosters further appreciation of how the site mediates the film experience and, by extension, South Vietnamese memories of the War. Three points of Tanvir’s analysis are relevant to this essay: the cinephile, the “poor image”, and decentralisation. To Tanvir, the cinephile is crucial to the pirate archive because their passion powers the films’ preservation. As the cinephilic pirate is often disassociated from archival institutions, the films preserved are “poor” in two senses of the word: lacking in quality and lacking in authority. It follows that the pirate archive is not only marginal in its illegal preservation of contents. It also threatens to oppose the official national history. The three points highlight essential characteristics of South Vietnamese cinema’s preservation on YouTube. I will elaborate below on how the South Vietnamese pirate film archive is not strictly contingent on cinephilia; how its low quality informs viewers’ positionality; and how it challenges official narratives from the margins.

Cinephilia plays less of a role in the preservation of South Vietnamese cinema than the desire to maintain memories of the nation-state. Tanvir asserts that YouTube only becomes an archive in the presence of the cinephile, where every exchange of films and filmic discourse fosters a cinephilic community. Such devotion to film is unclear in the case of South Vietnamese cinema. The film catalogues often exist alongside other ideologically charged texts such as nationalist poetry, interviews with anticommunist public figures, and conspiracy theories. Take the library of user USAVSC – UNVR for example, which (to the best of my knowledge) hosts the most extensive YouTube catalogue of South Vietnamese cinema. 31 (Figure 3) Their most popular uploads include not just Faceless Lover (first video, middle row) but also a homemade compilation of videos about ARVN soldiers (first video, first row) and an interview with dissident writer Dương Thu Hương on the tragedy of losing one’s nation (last video, middle row).32 The pirate archive ‘curated’ by user USAVSC – UNVR implies, at the very least, that their cinephilia (if they possess such a thing at all) coexists      with the desire to preserve aspects of South Vietnamese society and with the grief for the nation’s loss.

Figure 3: User USAVSC – UNVR’s most popular uploads or cinephilia coexisting with nationalist grief.

A look at another YouTube user’s library and comments on the film uploads affirms the entanglement central to the South Vietnamese diasporic subjectivity: nostalgia for the lost country coalesces with anticommunist sentiments. User Nguyen304 has been on YouTube for longer and generated five times more views than USAVSC – UNVR.’33 (Figure 4) Nguyen304’s copy of Land of Sorrows finds a place in their pirate archive (second video, last row) alongside an exposé on Hồ Chí Minh (second video, first row) and a nostalgic black-and-white slideshow of Saigon in 1961 (third video, middle row). Comments on the uploads express mourning for the lost nation by stating the viewer’s emotions (“…but SOUTH VIETNAM is no more…I am saddened, hurt, and reminiscent”)34 or commemorating an idealised South Vietnam (“how was the Republic of Vietnam so humane”).35 Sometimes they underscore discontent for the current Vietnamese government (“I hope…communist will get-out of Viet Nam soon”)36 to the approval of other viewers, signified by “likes”. If we accept Tanvir’s suggestion that the cinephile fosters a community through their exchange of pirated films, the community formed through these YouTube uploads preserves films in the context of grief for South Vietnam and hostility for SRVN.

Figure 4: User Nguyen304’s most popular uploads or entangled diasporic subjectivity.

The pirated and archived films’ poorness strengthens both feelings of grief and hostility. Building on Hito Steyerl’s concept,37 Tanvir uses the adjective “poor” to signify first the quality of the image – “its resolution and its proximity to an almost mythical ‘original’” – and second its legitimacy – “its exclusion from the archive and the prestige of ‘national’ culture.”38 The South Vietnamese cinema preserved on YouTube is poor in both senses. The films’ quality lessens with every copy made whilst the minimal information provided by YouTube users is not a credible source regarding the films’ production and exhibition. For instance, Faceless Lover was uploaded in 2015 by user USAVSC – UNVR. With the nondescript internet as its source – as noted by USAVSC – UNVR in the description – the video has the maximum quality of 360p. On the other hand, in 2012, user Minh Quang Lê uploaded a copy of Faceless Lover that they took from a DVD distributed in the US, allowing for a higher quality of 480p.39 Considering the timing, it is possible that USAVSC – UNVR downloaded Minh Quang Lê’s copy and re-uploaded the film to their own channel. The difference in quality is barely perceptible in low resolution. Minh Quang Lê however maintains a leg-up to competing pirates by providing some background information on the film in the description, thereby making clear to viewers the historical and cultural value of Faceless Lover. They write that the film won Best Film and its lead actress Kiều Chinh won Best Actress at the Asian Film Festival in 1971. These details are however false as Kiều Chinh herself confirms that the awards ceremony took place in 1972.40 This complex case hints at the pirates’ different (if not competing) goals in their archival of South Vietnamese cinema and the broader movement to diversify memories of the War. The re-uploads demonstrate the same mandate under which the pirates operate: to ‘remember’ South Vietnam into existence. Such compulsive repetition highlights the diaspora’s attempt to placate their loss through cinematic substitution.

The film’s degeneration and inaccurate information remind YouTube spectators of the second poorness inherent to the pirate archive: exclusion from national institutions. Had the films been preserved by Vietnam’s national archives, had research on them been funded and published, there would be copies in      higher definition and reliable information. The lack thereof points to another absence, that of a nation-state interested in preserving such history and culture, that of South Vietnam. In his research into piracy in mainland Vietnam, Tony Tran argues that consumption of a text degraded by piracy is degrading to the self.41 In other words, the films’ poor image becomes a reflection of the spectator’s identity. In this case, the pirate archive – in all its incompletion, imperfection, and inaccuracy – reminds the South Vietnamese diaspora of their loss of the nation-state and their exclusion from what the SRVN deems as official national culture. South Vietnamese grief and SRVN bitterness persist through, and precisely because of, the pirate archive.  

The marginalisation of South Vietnamese memories does not mean passive acceptance of their position in the sideline, however. If anything, YouTube as the pirate archive attests to the diaspora’s deliberate decentralisation of official American and Vietnamese history. As YouTube users replace archivists in curating the texts they themselves produce and consume, they upset the traditional archive model. In this model, archivists are beholden to copyright laws and the government institutions that fund them. They nevertheless centralise the preservation of materials by exercising the authority granted to them by said institutions.42 Pirates, divorced from the institutions, are similarly unencumbered by ideas of intellectual property and government      mandates. Pirates are also disconnected from one another,      each striving for a slightly different objective from the next. In this case study, they are nevertheless united under the umbrella of the Second Indochina War commemoration. YouTube users then participate in an “uncoordinated online movement” – at times competitive, at times collaborative – to disrupt amnesia through their preservation of South Vietnamese films.43

This network of pirates and their pirate archives wrestle for control from official American and Vietnamese archives. To Kuhu Tanvir, the notion of control is paramount to the functions of an archive; how much control an archive has means the difference between memory and history.44 YouTube collapses this distinction by allowing users to retrieve and replay their memories, and therefore write their own versions of history. Besides being able to download contents and manipulate the videos for their own archives, users can also map out their own narrative by following the hyperlinks that the YouTube algorithm recommends to them.45 A user may follow up their viewing of Highway without Lights with a video on South Vietnamese poetry, thereby cementing the film’s valorisation of national heritage. The user may also watch a video completely unrelated to the Second Indochina War or exit the platform altogether. The point is: no two memories – or stories we tell about the past – of the War would be the same on YouTube. Although there is a possibility that these preserved films, to borrow Lan Duong’s words, reanimate and re-loop a nostalgia for a bygone era when viewed repeatedly,46 new narratives can be created to diversify memories of South Vietnam and the War.


As the 50th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon approaches, it is time we reckon with the reach and influence of the Second Indochina War’s legacy for mainland Vietnamese people and the diaspora. To do so, we must understand how this legacy is intertwined with memories of the War, which are powerfully mobilised and structured by films about the conflict. My examination of how South Vietnamese cinema is preserved and exhibited on YouTube finds that these films construct and sustain psychic and emotional connections to the lost country for the diaspora. The pirated South Vietnamese films infuse the diaspora’s memories with a sense of loss (as they transport viewers back to a place in time) and resentment (as they remind viewers of their distance from this place and from official national culture). The findings then illuminate the important roles film distribution and exhibition play in larger critical conversations on remembering the Second Indochina War. Namely, this case study demonstrates how the material conditions of a film and the infrastructure that facilitates its exhibition have the power to mediate one’s relationship to past and present sentiments. At the same time, far from consolidating a single way to remember the War, YouTube enables the contestation of official war memory by fostering transnationality, agency, and interactivity.

This essay hopes only to provide a preliminary synthesis of the ideas of piracy and the archive, and to demonstrate the pirate archive’s theoretical potential through the urgent case study of South Vietnamese cinema. More research needs to be done to provide a comprehensive study of piracy and Vietnamese cinemas. For instance, we may look at how the pirate’s dual role as both producer and consumer of a text conditions their and others’ viewing practices. Unlike the traditional pirates, who only put copies of a text into circulation, pirates in the Vietnamese diaspora also produce texts – interviews, conspiracy theories, commemorative videos – that may be consumed alongside war films, therefore altering how spectators understand them. We may also examine the transpacific flow of pirated texts – facilitated either by the internet or by diasporic Vietnamese people returning to the homeland – and how they challenge official historiographies from inside Vietnam. The possibilities for future research on South Vietnamese filmic portrayals of the War specifically, and Vietnamese cinema in general, are limitless. 

Such endlessness mirrors the myriad of connections made and waiting to be formed in the age of globalisation, which suggests to us that memory-work is so much more complicated than ever before. This endless quality reminds us of a time before unencumbered transnationalism, when memories and scholarship on them were (and still are) dictated by the hegemonic Global North, where non-white subjects can only remember and study from the margins. Remembering from the margin, as exemplified by the South Vietnamese pirate film archive, means being forever vigilant of the centre from which it is ostracised. Like the texts the pirates produce and archive for their own visual pleasures, memories and their cinematic vessels continue to splinter while staying connected in an intricate web.



  1. I will refer to what is otherwise known as “The Vietnam War” using the politically neutral term “Second Indochina War”. The latter signifies the conflict as a continuation of the First Indochina War against the French colonial administration and as a precursor to the Third Indochina War between China, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Situating the War within “Indochina” as opposed to just “Vietnam” acknowledges the involvement of forces allied with the United States, the Soviet Union, and the conflict’s impact on Southeast Asia as a region.
  2. Ravi Sundaram, Pirate Modernity: Delhi’s Media Urbanism, Asia’s Transformations (London: Routledge, 2010).
  3. Brian Larkin, “Degraded Images, Distorted Sounds: Nigerian Video and the Infrastructure of Piracy,” in Pirate Essays: A Reader in International Media Piracy, Tilman Baumgärtel, ed. (Amsterdam University Press, 2015), p. 184.
  4. Nguyen304, “Đất Khổ – VIETNAM: Land of Sorrows (Full Length Film),” 28 January 2011. Comment made by user chickenwretch in 2016.
  5. Lan Duong, “Việt Nam and the Diaspora: Absence, Presence, and the Archive,” in Looking Back on the Vietnam War: Twenty-First-Century Perspectives, Brenda M. Boyle and Jeehyun Lim, eds (Rutgers University Press, 2016), p.73.
  6. Nguyen Nguyen, “Land of Sorrows, Đất Khổ, Full Version,” 22 April 2011.
  7. Kuhu Tanvir, “Pirate Histories: Rethinking the Indian Film Archive,” BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies 4, no. 2 (1 July 2013): p. 115–36.
  8. Nguyễn-Võ Thu-Hương, “History Interrupted: Life after Material Death in South Vietnamese and Diasporic Works of Fiction,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 3, no. 1 (1 February 2008): p. 1–35.
  9. For discussions of South Vietnam’s political plurality, see Nu-Anh Tran, Disunion: Anticommunist Nationalism and the Making of the Republic of Vietnam (University of Hawai’i Press, 2022).
  10. See Ngô Phương Lan, Đồng Hành Với Màn Ảnh: Tiểu Luận, Phê Bình Điện Ảnh (The Companion to the Screen: Essays on Cinema and Film Reviews) (Hà Nội: Nhà Xuất Bản Văn Hoá Thông Tin (Culture & Information Publishing House), 1998); Pham Ngoc Truong, “Vietnam: A Brief History of Vietnamese Films,” in Film in South East Asia: Views from the Region, David Hanan, ed. (South East Asia-Pacific Audio Visual Archive Association, Vietnam Film Institute, and the National Screen and Sound Archive of Australia, 2001), p. 59–82; Vietnamese Cinematography: A Research Journey (Thế Giới Publishers, 2008). These accounts ascribe the birth of Vietnamese cinema to the Communist Party in the North.
  11. Duong, “Absence,” p. 64.
  12. Yến Lê Esperitu, “Vietnamese Refugees and Internet Memorials: When Does War End and Who Gets to Decide?,” in Looking Back on the Vietnam War, p. 18–33. Esperitu argues that the ARVN became a scapegoat for American debates about the War. For those that support the War, the ARVN are portrayed and remembered as cowards that cost Americans their victory in Southeast Asia. For those that oppose the War, the ARVN were puppets for the American war machine and imperialism.
  13. See Nhi T. Lieu, “Remembering ‘The Nation’ through Pageantry: Femininity and the Politics of Vietnamese Womanhood in the ‘Hoa Hau Ao Dai’ Contest,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 21, no. 1/2 (2000): p. 127–51. The Hi-Tek Incident in 1999 saw roughly 15,000 people demonstrate against the exhibition of communist symbols in Little Saigon, Orange County, California.
  14. Esperitu, “Internet Memorials,” p. 27.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Tanvir, “Pirate Histories,” p. 123.
  17. Memory of the South, “Re-Establishing the Honor of South Vietnam: Reanalyzing the Tet, Easter, and Spring Offensives,” 14 September 2021; TIN NÓNG 24H, “Tưởng Niệm Các Tướng Lãnh Việt Nam Cộng Hòa Tuẩn Tiết 1975,” (“Commemorating Republic of Vietnam Generals who Died after 1975”) 16 October 2017. “Tuẩn tiết” means committing suicide to follow one’s master in death or to preserve one’s dignity.
  18. Memory of the South, “Re-Establishing the Honor of South Vietnam.” Comment made by user Vash0006 in July, 2022.
  19. Ibid. Comment made by user Toten in July, 2022.
  20. USAVSC – UNVR – YouTube,” accessed 5 January 2023.
  21. Kiều Chinh, “The Cinema Industry,” in The Republic of Vietnam, 1955–1975: Vietnamese Perspectives on Nation Building, Tuong Vu and Sean Fear, eds. (Cornell University Press, 2019), P. 165–72.
  22. Nu-anh Tran, “South Vietnamese Identity, American Intervention, and the Newspaper Chính Luan (Political Discussion), 1965-1969,” Journal of Vietnamese Studies 1, no. 1–2 (February 2006): p. 169–209.
  23. Karen F. Gracy, “Moving Image Preservation and Cultural Capital,” Library Trends 56, no. 1 (2007): p. 183–97.
  24. Mike Featherstone, “Archive,” Theory Culture Society 23, no. 2-3 (2006): p. 591.
  25. Evyn Lê Espiritu, “’Who Was Colonel Hồ Ngọc Cẩn?’: Theorizing the Relationship between History and Cultural Memory” (Pomona College, 2013), p. 74.
  26. Ibid., p. 75.
  27. Duong, “Absence,” p. 66.
  28. Lauren Shohet, “YouTube, Use, and the Idea of the Archive,” Shakespeare Studies 38 (2010): p. 68-76,12.
  29. Lucas Hilderbrand, “Youtube: Where Cultural Memory and Copyright Converge,” Film Quarterly 61, no. 1 (1 September 2007): p. 48–57.
  30. Alison Landsberg, Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture (Columbia University Press, 2004).
  31. USAVSC – UNVR – YouTube,” accessed 5 January 2023.
  32. For a detailed discussion of how Dương Thu Hương is treated as a traitor by the Communist Party, see Lan Duong, “Heroes and Traitors: The Gendered Fictions of Đặng Nhật Minh and Dương Thư Hương,” in Treacherous Subjects: Gender, Culture, and Trans-Vietnamese Feminism (Temple University Press, 2012), p. 90–121.
  33. Nguyen304 – YouTube,” accessed 9 January 2023.
  34. Minh Quang Lê, “Người Tình Không Chân Dung (Warrior, Who Are You?),” 22 July 2012. Comment made by user “Daisy Le” in 2016. My translation of “nhưng MIỀN NAM VIỆT NAM lại ko còn ….buồn thương nhớ.”
  35. Nguyen Nguyen, “Land of Sorrows”. Comment made by BÌNH ĐẲNG CH in 2021. My translation of “VNCH nhân văn nhân bản làm sao.”
  36. Minh Quang Lê, “Người Tình Không Chân Dung.” Comment made by user Cecilia Nhi Tran in 2013.
  37. See Hito Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image,” E-Flux 10 (2009).
  38. Tanvir, “Pirate Histories,” p. 124.
  39. Minh Quang Lê, “Người Tình Không Chân Dung (Warrior, Who Are You?).”
  40. Kiều Chinh, “The Cinema Industry,” p. 171.
  41. Tony Tran, “Piracy on the Ground: How Informal Media Distribution and Access Influences the Film Experience in Contemporary Hanoi, Vietnam,” in Pirate Essays, p. 67.
  42. Gracy, “Moving Image Preservation,” p. 189-191.
  43. Esperitu, “Internet Memorials,” p. 22.
  44. Tanvir, “Pirate Histories,” p. 115.
  45. Ekaterina Haskins, “Between Archive and Participation: Public Memory in a Digital Age,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 37, no. 4 (2007): p. 406.
  46. Lan Duong, “Gender, Affect, and Landscape: Wartime Films from Northern and Southern Vietnam,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 15, no. 2 (3 April 2014): p. 269.

About The Author

Scarlette Nhi Do is a PhD candidate at the Australian National University. She researches films about the Second Indochina War and uses Freudian psychoanalysis to examine the melancholia underscoring these texts. Scarlette also currently teaches film studies at the University of Melbourne and serves as an executive director of a nonprofit organisation focused on gender justice.

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