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.

Next Screenings for Translation/ Transmission

Audre Lorde stands in a park

We are reaching the mid-point for Translation/ Transmission so wanted to remind you of what is coming up this week.

On Tuesday 18 March at 6pm we are showing Dagmar Schultz’s beautiful biopic of her good friend Audre Lorde.

The film is an intimate portrayal of Lorde which allows us to see her as a transnational feminist figure who worked hard to facilitate the collective identities of the Afro-German community in Berlin.

We will also be screening a very special video made by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, who will be reading a letter she wrote to Audre Lorde as part of her activist-educational project The Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind.

Tickets are selling fast so make sure you buy in advance.

On Sunday 23 March at 1pm we are showing Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Surname Viet Given Name Nam, a profoundly personal documentary explores the role of Vietnamese women historically and in contemporary society,

Using dance, printed texts, folk poetry and the words and experiences of Vietnamese women in Vietnam—from both North and South—and the United States, Trinh’s film challenges official culture with the voices of women.

Image of the same woman taken from several angles

Bristol based academic and self-proclaimed film nerd Carol O’Sullivan will be on hand afterwards to help guide the debate.

We are reading criticism relating to the film at this Wednesday’s reading group at Hydra books, 7-9pm, if you want to engage with the film’s theoretical ideas. Download the articles here and here – all welcome!

Don’t forget you can buy your tickets for the Intellect Books raffle at all screenings!

Hope to see you at Watershed for one of the shows!

Translation/ Transmission theory reading group – information

The Translation/ Transmission theory reading group is less than a month away, so we thought it was a good idea to tell people what to expect, and how we are going to try to run it.

The group is meeting every Wednesday from 7-9pm throughout February and March at Hydra Books, 34 Old Market, Bristol.

The first meeting is Wednesday 5 February.

Our first readings will respond to interviews with film maker and theorist Trinh T. Minh-Ha,

We are screening Trinh’s film Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) on 23 March. Don’t forget you can buy your tickets now from Watershed’s website!

Each reading group will have two facilitators who will prepare a series of questions raised by the selected reading.

These questions will engage with the texts themselves, but we want to use our discussions to think about wider themes relating to translation and transmission.

How can these concepts help us to understand feminist cultural production, history, activism and theory across boundaries of time and space in different ways?

We hope that preparing questions will enable us to focus on specific aspects of the texts and help us to make the most of our time together.

We also hope that responsibility for creating questions will be taken by people attending the group in subsequent weeks.

We want to emphasise that no prior experience or knowledge is necessary to come and join the discussions, although you will need to have read the texts, copies are available on the website.

The reading group is free to attend although we will ask for a small donation to cover the cost of room hire.

Hope to see you there!