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The Beautiful Country (2004)

An epic story of hope.

Directed by:

Hans Petter Moland

Rating: 0/10

Running Time: 137 minutes

US Certificate: R

Country: United States, Norway

— P R E V I E W —Synopsis

Bui doi—“less than dust”—is a slur aimed at Vietnamese children with American fathers. “The Beautiful Country”, set in 1990, relates the odyssey of a young “bui doi” as he escapes Vietnam, endures refugee camp, and survives a brutal ocean crossing and indentured servitude with a human trafficking ring. Nevertheless, he manages to keep hope, humanity, and a generous spirit alive as he searches for connection with his long-lost family. His quest leads him from Saigon to Malaysia to New York City and, finally, to a remote Texas ranch and a redemptive reunion.

BINH (Damien Nguyen) has been called bui doi and worse for his entire life, living in a village with a foster family, perhaps relatives, who work him like a servant but barely tolerate his presence. Binh is now a full-grown young man, his unusual height and facial features marking him for contempt. His foster mother begrudgingly reveals that Binh’s birth mother is alive and living in Saigon. Binh packs up his few possessions and heads to the city.

His one link to family life, and clue to his mother’s whereabouts, is a photo of a smiling American and a pretty young Vietnamese woman holding a baby, standing before a distinctive storefront. Asking around, showing his photo, stoically accepting of rude rebuffs but persevering, Binh finally locates a young boy, TAM (Tran Dang Quoc Thinh), who has heard tell of a very tall big brother. Their mother is at work up at “the big house.”

MAI (Thi Kim Xuan) is a domestic in the luxurious household of imperious MRS. HOA (Anh Thu), who treats her Western guests graciously and her Vietnamese servants harshly. When Mai leaves for the night, she is surprised by a stranger waiting in the shadows—Binh. Mai’s tearful embrace is Binh’s first taste of family love.

Mai manages to secure a job for Binh as a houseboy for Mrs. Hoa. Although Mai and Binh must submissively endure the insults, slaps, and harassment of Mrs. Hoa and her equally odious son, it’s a period of bittersweet contentment at home, as Mai, Binh, and little Tam make a life together. Binh learns that Mai was married in a church to his father, that they were happy together, but that the American disappeared one day without a trace.

Summary

— P R E V I E W —Synopsis Bui doi—“less than dust”—is a slur aimed at Vietnamese children with American fathers. “The Beautiful Country”, set in 1990, relates the odyssey of a young “bui doi” as he escapes Vietnam, endures refugee camp, and survives a brutal ocean crossing and indentured servitude with a human […]

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