at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

The Lotus (Bông Sen)

Bong Sen image
Wednesday, 13 February
6:30 p.m. – Korean Studies Auditorium

Directed by Tran Dac and Amar Laskri
Algeria/Viet Nam, 1998, 105 minutes
Vietnamese, Arabic and French with English Subtitles

In the 1950s, the French Army sent thousands of indigenes, soldiers conscripted from colonies in North Africa, to fight in the so-called “Dirty War” in Indochina. Set against the growing Vietnamese struggle for independence is a love story involving Ali, portrayed by Algerian actor El-Mellouhi Niddal, and Lien (Nguyen An Chinh), a beautiful Viet Minh guerrilla. As the war progresses and Ali witnesses the growing abuse of the Vietnamese people, he questions the horrible war he and his fellow soldiers have been fighting on behalf of the French. Lien (whose name means “lotus”) inspires Ali and his Algerian comrades to abandon their French officers and join the Viet Minh at the famous battle of Dien Bien Phu.

BONG SEN is a remarkable co-production between Algeria and Vietnam. The film won Third Prize at the Seventh Festival of African Cinema in Morocco. The film also marks the first collaboration between the luminous Vietnamese actresses Nguyen An Chinh and Le Khanh, both of whom later appeared together in the 2000 film festival favorite, VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN. BONG SEN was helmed by Tran Dac (director of AUGUST STAR, winner of the Golden Lotus Prize) and Belgrade-trained Algerian filmmaker Amar Laskri (PATROL IN THE EAST).

This rarely seen film – one of the last films made by Algeria before all film production ended during that nation’s tumultuous “invisible war” in the 1990s – has been translated and subtitled by students at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, University of Hawaii, and is presented for the first time with English subtitles!

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