Vượt Biên: Voyage of a Diaspora (my One Minute Film project)

Vượt Biên: Voyage of a Diaspora is my silent one minute film that metaphorically depicts the Vietnamese Boat People’s journey for freedom, using photos from the United Nations’ Photo Library, among other sources.

This past spring, I was fortunate enough to have been accepted into the One Minute Film (OMF) program with the Atlantic Filmmakers’ Cooperative (AFCOOP) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This is a video rendition of my OMF project, not a digitization for reasons described in the Production Notes of the film press kit, so the poor quality. However, this will suffice to share with others who would otherwise literally need a film projector to be able to see it.

The film press kit also has much more detail on the topics covered, images, production notes and additional resources about the Vietnamese Boat People.

The One Minute Film experience was an incredible one for me, and I think I could say the same on behalf of my colleagues in the program. We were trained on everything from story development, which is challenging in a one minute film for all kinds of genres, to lighting, camera operations and techniques like animation, film properties and handling, editing, casting, among many other topics. We had a great diversity of styles and genres, and all the hard work paid off as all the films turned out fabulously! I am the first to post mine online, but as more of my colleagues do, I will add links.

You can search one minute film on YouTube to see a whole host of others as this is a genre and program which exists in many countries and has been done for many years.

The OMF project was my first experience with film, but the mentors, instructors and AFCOOP staff did a fabulous job with me and my colleagues to help us produce what we did. In the age of digital YouTube where people just snap and film everything digitally, impromptu, people pick up a lot of bad artistic habits from never having to think about preparing for shots and just take an infinite number of redos until they get something sort of OK. What I learned through the OMF program will be of value to me in many capacities, not just filming, for a long time to come. The skills are valuable for lots of forms of communication, from writing to film to photography, but the preparation habits will be priceless. The discipline from having to work hard for one take so you would prepare as much as possible to prevent things from going wrong is hard to teach, and harder to undo for the young casual digital shooters who never knew what it’s like to have 24 film shots in a camera with a price to develop each shot.

I would highly recommend the film experience if you have never tried it. Check with local film organizations in your local area to see if they have intro film programs, especially something like the One Minute Film program. In Nova Scotia, the entry forms to the program can be found on the AFCOOP site in January, with the deadlines for February 1 or there abouts. Don’t pass it up if you have ever had any inkling to try out making film, even if ultimately digital. The program is free! Your ideas and work are the only things required, with incredible gratification for what you put in.

Aside from big thanks to my OMF colleagues, AFCOOP staff, mentors and instructors, I would also like to thank my Parents and a certain lady at the United Nations photo library in New York, which is not a public archive. When I showed up at their doorstep and told her my story, she signed me in past security and gave me access to their entire digitized collection of Vietnamese refugee photos. That definitely made it easier for me to make this film with all the photos and not having to decide right on the spot which ones I would request. Serendipity has been with me again and again, in ways I could not believe, in the making of this film, and I am grateful to whomever I should be.


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