GRANT RECIPIENTS: HAM TRAN
Past Recipients Student Testimonials  


I was born in 1974, the youngest of first generation ethnic Chinese Vietnamese parents. Though I grew up in Vietnam, I was raised with traditional Chinese beliefs and values, while the Vietnamese culture I knew ebbed into an abstraction. When my family immigrated to America through the Orderly Departure Program in 1982, I learned to bisect my Chinese culture on my way to becoming "Americanized". It was not until my undergraduate residency at UCLA, where I earned my BA in English, that I realized that all of my intermediate education had been about one thing institutionalized amnesia. Art, then, became a process of "remembering" a way to recollect and rejoin all my detachments. My explorations in playwriting, prose, poetry, music, drawing, painting, film and video became a journey to assemble new and lost history and culture in the convergence of self.

As a playwright I have written several scripts that range from comedy, to absurd, and to drama. At the beginning of 1998, I completed a play in four parts, entitled Icarus Alighting. My other works include a staged reading of a work in progress entitled Bristol Stop and the Madonna at the Theater District in Costa Mesa. My second play in progress entitled Rubber Plants has had staged reading at a playwriting workshop festival at UCLA, hosted by Cherie Moraga, and at the APACT Annual Film Festival. My poems have been published in Ogma, West Wind, of which I was an editor, and Perimeter, of which I am an editor and co founder. My artworks have been exhibited at various shops, galleries, and exhibitions at Royce Hall for "Tet 2000", and "Behind the Orange Curtain III"; at Iansiti Art Gallery, and published in the 1994 Bruin Life.

Since 1996, I've been with a Vietnamese American performance group called Club O'Noodles, whose mission is to provide a nurturing community for emerging Vietnamese American artists. I have since toured with Club, performing our signature piece, Laughter From the Children of War. Following the success of this performance piece, Club was commissioned by the University of Massachusetts in Amherst through a grant from the Lila Wallace Foundation to create a new performance piece entitled, Stories From a Nail Salon, for which I was the playwright. In the year 2000 I've been asked to direct the touring performances of Laughter and Nail Salon. I have also written and directed three television comedy programs, The Rosie Nguyen Show and Who wants to be the President?, and Tet 2001, which were aired on Little Saigon Television in Southern California as well as in the Bay area.

 Currently I am completing my MFA at the UCLA Graduate School of Film and Television. Individually my films have been experiments in visual story telling: "Sisyphus", a 2 minute silent black and white film; The Prescription, a ten minute comedy about curiosity, fear and love through the eyes of an 8 years old child; Pairents, a 4 minute digital video created from animated photos; Pomegranate, 14 minute film based on a poem about my grandfather, and Poetree, a two minute video about a Vietnamese woman's longing to return to home. My first return to Vietnam was in 1999, when work as a Cinematographer for a documentary about fragmenting effect of the Vietnam War on a Vietnamese family, entitled Nuoc (Water/Country). I knew then that my next had to be shot in Vietnam. Which leads me to my thesis film, The Anniversary, a 35mm short film about a monk who is haunted by his memories of war and betrayal on the anniversary of his brother's death.. In parts these works serve to find where I fit in the community. As a whole they reflect my on going journey of piecing memories back into the mosaic of my identity, one flickering frame at a time.

Yet, all of these works and explorations of expression are precatory in light of the project that I am presenting to the Caucus Foundation.

"In 1963 a boy and his mother are left in Saigon while his father and brother flee to seek shelter from religious persecution in North Vietnam. The two brothers meet as strangers in a hapless confrontation during the war in 1973. Thirty years later, a Buddhist monk is still haunted by his memories of war and betrayal on the anniversary of his brother's death."

This is the premise of The Anniversary, a film that I have wanted to make ever since my first year in graduate film school. Ultimately I want the audience to feel at the end of the film the love, betrayal, and chaos inherent to a civil war. It is a tragic story that resonates deeply to this day in the hearts of so many Vietnamese and Vietnamese American families. My hope is that this film will contribute to the process of healing and forgiving that is so desperately needed in the Vietnamese communities in this country and the hurt that they still bear when they remember the sacrifices that accompanied the Vietnam War.

When this script was finished I knew for certain that two elements were critical to accomplish the goals I have set out for the film. The first is that this film needs to be shot in the majestic and ancient settings of the people whom this film speaks about Vietnam. My father has an expression that he uses to describe the importance of authenticity. He said, and I agree with him, that to shoot this film in any other country would be like eating Vietnamese food without fish sauce "You lose the flavor." Getting the recipe for this film right must then include the second criterion: this film needs to be shot with the beautiful colors and textures of 35mm film.

The actual shoot in Vietnam is less difficult than the actual getting there, because it is such a costly passage. Once there, however, I am familiar with the biggest film studio in Ho Chi Minh City, Hang Phim Giai Phong. All of the details of production are listed in the production budget, making the shoot in Vietnam very possible and definitely more economic.

Thus far, much of the funding for this project was made possible by the James Bridges Award, a unique award that is given by Jack Larsen to only one student each academic year. The decisions are made on the merit of the student and the content of their project, and I am very honored and proud to say that he has chosen to give that award to me for the making of The Anniversary. I have also spoken with Kodak, and they have offered to donate a third of the film stock budgeted. In addition to Kodak's generous support, Mr. Guilermo Rosas, the Director of Photography for Before Night Falls, has agreed to photograph this film. With Mr. Rosas's name attached to this project, I hope to be able to seek donations for the rest of the film stock required to shoot this film from other production companies.

My first film, The Prescription, was nominated for the 27th Annual Student Oscar. This year, my second film, Pomegranate, was not only nominated for the 28`h Annual Student Oscar, but it also won UCLA's Spotlight Award. The successes of these two films were a testament to the support they received, which is why I feel that The Anniversary also has great potential to go further. However, the film is far from over once it is shot. It is only the help of sponsorship that will carry this film through its completion. I know that this project will excel in earning great recognition because it comes from a very personal, yet universal place love and sacrifice.


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