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UCR Screens Vietnam War Documentary

UCR to Screen Vietnam War Documentary

“Don’t Burn,” based on the diary of a young battlefield doctor, and discussion with director Dang Nhat Minh set for Jan. 28-29.

(January 7, 2010)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – UC Riverside will host a screening of “Don’t Burn” (“Dung Dot”), a film based on the diary of a young Vietnamese battlefield doctor who was killed in action in 1970, and a discussion with the film’s director in a two-day event Jan. 28 and 29.

The film will screen on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 5 p.m. at the UltraStar University Village 10 theater in University Village, 1201 University Ave., Riverside. Tickets are free. Reservations are suggested and may be made online at Those who RSVP early will receive one complimentary popcorn.

UCR professors Lan Duong and Mariam Lam will conduct a question-and-answer discussion with award-winning director Dang Nhat Minh on Friday, Jan. 29, from noon to 2 p.m. in UCR Interdisciplinary building room 1113. The event is free, but parking costs $6.

“Don’t Burn,” which was released in Vietnam on April 30, is that nation’s official submission to the 2009 Academy Awards. It is based on the diary of Dang Thuy Tram, a young doctor from Hanoi who volunteered at age 24 to care for the wounded in Quang Ngai Province. She was 27 when she was killed by American forces in 1970. An American officer who found the diary was preparing to burn it and other non-military documents when a translator reportedly told him, “Don’t burn this one. … It has fire in it already.” Against regulations, the officer kept the diary for 35 years, returning it to her family in 2005.

When the diary was published in Vietnam it became a best-seller, eliciting comparisons with “The Diary of Anne Frank.” It was translated into English under the name “Last Night I Dreamed of Peace.”

Duong, assistant professor of media and cultural studies, is teaching a class this quarter on Vietnam war films. American filmmakers have produced many movies about Vietnam, but few films by Vietnamese directors have screened in the United States, she said.

“By bringing this event to UCR, I am hoping to share with students, the academic community at UCR, and the community in Riverside a bit of Vietnamese history, one that is not well known to a mainstream public; that is, the point of view of the Vietnamese during the war,” she said. The story of how the diaries came to be published is a story that reveals the ways that Americans and the Vietnamese are integrally tied by history, she said. “The film also speaks to how popular Dang Thuy Tram’s hand-written diaries were when they were published in Vietnam in 2005, instantly becoming a bestseller in the country and then translated into English two years after.”

Films by director Dang Nhat Minh are internationally recognized and have won several prestigious awards, among them the Nikkei Asia Prize and a lifetime achievement award for outstanding contributions to the Asian film industry, presented at the fifth Gwangju International Film Festival in South Korea. “Don’t Burn” won the Audience Award at the Fukuoka International Film Festival in Japan in 2009.

They offer an important perspective on the war’s impact on the Vietnamese and how the Vietnamese commemorate the war, Duong said. “The discussion with Dang will be a rare opportunity to speak to the director and participate in a conversation about Vietnamese filmmaking,” she said.

The event is sponsored by UCR’s Program of Southeast Asian Studies: Text, Ritual, Performance (SEATRiP) and the workgroup of Viral Ports, Virtual Currents: Interconnections between Media, the Arts and the Everyday in Southeast Asia and its Diasporas, a UCR Program for Mellon Foundation Interdisciplinary Workshops in the Humanities.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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