Unwatchable Violence: Historical Affects and the Legacy of the Vietnam War in Vietnamese American Feminist Film

Linh Thuỷ Nguyễn
  • Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, September 2018, Brill
  • DOI: 10.1163/23523085-00403003

Vietnamese Diasporic Film and Family Violence

What is it about?

Historians and cultural scholars of the Vietnam War have explored how structures of war and racism continue to shape filmmaking and media (under)representations of Vietnamese in the United States. This examination of structure, however, has inadvertently overlooked the social dimension of representational practices as they are lived and felt by the Vietnamese diaspora. In this article, I analyze Viette (2012), an independent film by filmmaker Mye Hoang which depicts a young Vietnamese American woman coming of age through Orientalized sexual violence, familial domestic violence, and state violence. I argue that Vietnamese American women’s experience as subjects in the United States is informed by relations of domination, as their bodies become sites for competing individual, familial, and national desires. Rather than offering authentic truths about the experiences of refugees from that war, the film deploys unwatchability as an affective register of the historicity of the War and its violent legacies.

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