The median age in Vietnam is 30.9 years. The great majority of the population was born after the war, and has its eye fixed firmly on the future, yet the past is difficult to evade. With vivid immediacy and palpable empathy, Dinh Q. Lê explores various paths and responses in the aftermath of war through the video and photography installations on view in his solo exhibition True Journey is Return, at the San Jose Museum of Art through April 14.
Now Playing! Southeast Asian Film Asserts Itself in San Jose and Beyond
Lê will be at California College of the Arts in San Francisco this Wednesday, March 20 to show and discuss his 2012 film, Light and Belief: Voices and Sketches of Life from the Vietnam War, which introduces the viewer to a battalion of North Vietnamese artists who joined the cause via their chosen medium. An investigation of idealism, memory and creativity, Light and Belief leads off Stories from the Farther Shore: Southeast Asian Film (March 20–24), a series assembled by SJMA associate curator Rory Padeken that also includes stops in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia.
Unspooling at SJMA, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and other venues, “Stories” includes The Tailor (March 22 at Tully Library), an emotional drama immersed in the áo dài (long dress) fashions of the 1960s and Vietnam’s official submission to this year’s Oscar competition for Best Foreign Language Film. The irresistible 2007 Saigon street-children drama The Owl and the Sparrow (March 21 at SJMA) plucks heartstrings in a different chord.
The “Farther Shore,” per Padeken’s piercing survey, encompasses transgender transformation in Vietnam (the intimate 2015 documentary Finding Phong, March 22 at SJMA) and profound gay love in Thailand (Malila: The Farewell Flower, March 23). The thread that binds the series is a heart-on-its-sleeve endorsement of individuality, identification and self-assertion.