Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Surname Viet, Given Name Nam

Cultural translation expert Dr Carol O’Sullivan will be facilitating the discussion after Sunday’s screening of Surname Viet, Given Name Nam. Here Carol offers some initial thoughts on the film.

I had the very great pleasure today of an advance screening of Trinh T. Minh-ha’s extraordinary 1989 documentary Surname Viet, Given Name Nam.

It’s been talked about by researchers in film and in subtitling, so I had known of it for some time but never had a chance to see it because it’s not on commercial release.

The lovely folk at the Watershed cinema very kindly allowed me to come in and have a sneak preview, which was a great luxury.

I’m particularly interested in how the film plays with text on screen, but as today’s showing showed (ha), the director plays with a lot more than that, including with the documentary format itself.

I don’t want to give away too much about it ahead of Sunday’s showing, but readers who know the film already or don’t mind being slightly spoiled may be interested in Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review from back in the day. There’s also a very short preview on Youtube, though it only gives a hint of the film’s richness.

The film will be screened in 16mm format. I’m really looking forward to seeing it again.

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