Young Viet Kieu are returning in waves to the country their parents fled decades ago. Why?
Project type: Nonfiction Short
Project status: Post Production
Co-Director/Producer: Fred Le
Co-Director/Cinematographer: Bret Hamilton
Executive Producer: King Kimbit
Editor: Linh Tran
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Standup comedian Fred Le hears the stories of a diverse range of young overseas-born Vietnamese who made their way back to the land that their parents left following the end of the Vietnam War. The Empathizer explores identity and the impact of trauma among Việt Kiều who grew up a generation removed from tragic events of the past.
Between 1975 and 1995 around 2,000,000 Vietnamese fled the country. In 2015, there were a reported 12,000 Việt Kiều (overseas-born Vietnamese) who “returned” to the former capital of Saigon, with hundreds more migrating every year seeking opportunity, escape, or info about their heritage.
Shot over two weeks in Saigon and Hanoi, The Empathizer is a half-hour documentary featuring over twenty millennial-aged Việt Kiều sharing their journeys back to Vietnam and the ripples that their reverse immigration may have caused among their families.
The project takes a look at the effects of wartime trauma through the eyes of the children of refugees, a generation removed from the events which led to their parents’ escape from Vietnam yet deeply shaped by the circumstances of their birth.
Meet the Filmmakers
Fred Le – Co-Director/Producer
Fred is a graduate of the Film & Digital Media program at UC Santa Cruz. In Vietnam he served as the original host of the VTV International program Vietnam A-Z. He regularly performs and produces standup shows around the country and has earned invites to perform at prestigious festivals including San Francisco Sketchfest, Treefort, and Boom Chicago in Amsterdam. In 2022 he co-created the popular all-Vietnamese comedy showcase Embarrassed by Night and hosts a weekly podcast under the same name.
Bret Hamilton – Co-Director/Cinematographer
Bret is a documentary director of photography based in Los Angeles. Bret also lived in Vietnam during the same period as Fred, where he developed a deep affection for the culture and community in Vietnam while working as a documentarian for a variety of media outlets including one of the top online food and travel channels: Best Ever Food Review Show. More recently, Bret has partnered with brands like Rolling Stone magazine, Showtime and Salesforce to capture engaging stories for their global audiences.
King Kimbit – Executive Producer
King Kimbit is a literary Hip-Hop artist born and raised on unceded Algonquin territory (Ottawa), passionate about empowering and encouraging youth, community care, and sharing love through writing, reciting, and the abolition of punitive, carceral institutions. King has performed solo and as part of ensembles in music and theatre across Turtle Island, Jamaica, and Vietnam. Since 2018, she has teamed up with Jo-Anne Bryan, Carmelle Cachero, and Jordan Samonas, as a writer and the vocalist of their group, Speaking Vibrations. In 2017 King released her debut album Life Lessons Poetically, a collection of musical poetry in collaboration with artists locally and abroad. Her new project, Healing Trauma From The Projects, will be dropping in the coming year.
Linh Tran – Editor
Born and raised in Vietnam, Linh Tran moved to the United States to pursue her higher education in 2013. Starting out in theater acting, she went on to make films, both documentary and fiction. Linh holds an MFA degree in film&TV from DePaul University. Her works are deeply personal, exploring memories of childhood and early adulthood.
Linh’s short films have been selected by Dublin International Film Festival, One Country One Film – Apchat-Issoire International Film Festival, Bushwick Film Festival, Indy Shorts International Film Festival, Cordillera International Film Festival, Pittsburgh Shorts Film Festival. Her feature debut Waiting for the Light to Change won the Narrative Feature Grand Jury Prize at the 29th Slamdance Film Festival.
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