Daughter From Danang
Friday, December 13, 2002
If Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco's moving documentary about a young Amerasian woman's search for the Vietnamese birth mother who gave her up at the end of the Vietnam War and then lost track of her after she was adopted by a single American woman were only concerned with happy endings, it could have ended with Heidi (nee Hiep) Bub's tearful reunion with Mai Thi Kim in Danang.
But that would be only a half-hour movie and only tell half of this sad story. For once the thrill of Heidi's rediscovery of her mother wears off, it quickly becomes apparent that, regardless of her Asian roots, a woman raised in the middle-class comfort of the American South has as much in common with an impoverished Vietnamese family as I do.
You can talk about culture clash, but part of the problem is also Heidi's unrealistic expectation that finding her birth mother will heal every psychic wound she ever experienced. That fairy tale quickly unravels when Mai Thi Kim's family expects and demands rather too bluntly that Heidi support them financially. Maybe Thomas Wolfe was right: You can't go home again. At least not when the one woman you think loves you unconditionally comes with a price tag.