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by Linh Tran (linhtran02@yahoo.com)

Rated: PG-13   Genre: Family   User Review:

This screenplay is copyrighted to its author. All rights reserved. This screenplay may not be used or reproduced without the express written permission of the author.



Saigon in 1975, still a vibrant city in spite of decades of
civil war. City buildings are not particularly tall or
remarkable, and are tainted with dirt and grime from lack of
care and a sign of war fatigue.

Saigon River is filled with rusty barges on muddy waters,
some moving slowly down river while others are just stuck.
The air is thick with humidity and smog from pollution.
The city streets are congested, filled with cars ejecting
smog from muffler pipes and cigarette smoke from passengers.
Mopeds and cyclos(bicycle taxis) are veering every which
way through the streets.

People at the start of their day, pushing carts or carrying
trays of goods on their heads or makeshift carriers with
shoulder poles using bamboo sticks weighed down on both ends
with tubs of goods, like the scales of justice, but filled
with steaming foods.
                       LINH (V.O)
Life is full of choices, decisions
that will forever forge the path
of your life...
A spacious 2-story European style villa. Wrought iron gates
open to a long driveway with multiple parked cars, a
Mercedes sedan, an Alfa Romeo sportscar, a Peugeot sedan,
and a Jeep CJ. The garden in front of the villa is full of
white and pink rose bushes in bloom and numerous fruit
trees. A gardener on a ladder is tending to the
bougainvillea winding its way up an exterior wall of the
                                         CAMERA PANS TO
LINH's bedroom is modern and bright with white wood
furniture and a full size canopy bed. The bed faces patio
doors that open to a veranda overlooking the lush gardens.


Framed artwork of Monet and Cezanne prints hang on the
walls. Louis Armstrong's "It's a Wonderful World" plays on
the radio on the nightstand. Clock reads 7:00AM.
                       LINH (5)
      (Pudgy, bouncy
Chao (Hello) Chi (older sister)
                       THI (16- Nanny)
Chao em (younger sister), let's
get you ready for school.
LINH floats in and out of the bathroom, brushing her hair,
attaching a hair ribbon that only serves to highlight her
round cheeks, putting on her school uniform. Runs
downstairs as Thi follows close behind carrying her school
The kitchen is the epicenter this morning. The head cook is
busy stirring a large soup pot on the gas stove, while
waving to a male helper holding a just killed chicken to
head towards the sink before the chicken bleeds all over the
black and white checker tile floor. Another cook is sliding
a black cast iron pot into the wood fire oven while also
manning baked goods in the electric oven. Steam rises from
one of the many rice cookers.

Several other staffers are carrying trays of fruit and vases
of flowers out of the kitchen to the expansive living room.

THI enters and proceeds to ladle soup into 2 bowls and walks
them over to the kitchen table.
Living room is carpeted and decorated with sleek black
lacquer furnishings and wall units displayed with family
pictures, awards, memorabilia. Heavy tapestry drapes are
pulled back to reveal a view of the gardens.
LINH enters the living room where her Mother is eyeing the

MOTHER's frame is petite and slim, her porcelain skin is
bare this morning. Even in her dressing gown, she carries
herself with grace but authority.


Chao Mother.
Linh, let's stay away from the koi
pond at school today, I don't want
to send another change of clothes
for you.
Yes, Mother.
LINH retreats back to the kitchen and sits down to eat her
breakfast of porridge. Her older brother THIEN enters also
in school uniform, followed by his nanny TU. TU is brushing
his hair as he sits down to eat.
Ca va?
Tres bien. Tu connais la musique.
They look playfully around as the staff do not understand
French. Their Father enters the kitchen, looking dapper as
usual in dress shirt with cuff links and striped tie,
carrying his jacket.
He tousles their hair as he leaves. THIEN is the spitting
image of their father.
They finish eating and walk out to the driveway into the
Peugeot with the driver. The iron gate is opened by another
staff member and the car pull outs.
Car swerves through the bustling dusty streets, fighting for
space among the mopeds and cyclos. Barely there sidewalks
are filled with vendor carts selling food items, gasoline,
household goods, everything imaginable. Roast chickens and
ducks, or raw meats on full display in open dusty air carts.

Homes on the streets are neck in neck, built wall to wall
next to one another with no land separating them. The homes
are narrow but up to 3 stories tall, nearly every one of the
ground floor opens up to a restaurant or shop of some kind.
Home businesses at their finest. Life outside of their
fortress gates is dramatically different.


At a stoplight, LINH eyes a nearby moped where the man is
holding a cage filled with ducklings with one arm and rides
with the other. The ducklings are flapping and jumping
around, almost making him lose his balance. LINH flaps her
arms, urging them to escape their captivity.
Car stops in front of a French Academy, LINH and THIEN jump
out with their school bags and run inside. Driver watches
them get inside and nods to school attendant before driving
FATHER enters the double doors of his office suite, 2
secretaries seated at their desks on typewriters stand
upright at the sight of him. He walks straight into his
office and a male assistant immediately appears.
Office is nicely decorated with mahogany desk, leather
office chairs, and traditional Vietnamese red lacquer wall
art. Round conference table in the corner is piled high
with file folders. Side wall is filled with locked file
cabinets. Baby pictures, family pictures, and pictures with
high-ranking military officials and dignitaries are
displayed in the wall units.
Good morning sir.
Kiet, how is the schedule for the
On schedule sir, they are almost
done loading. (Pointing out the
window to large shipping vessel).
They are overlooking a port, shipping containers are being
raised and stacked on the deck of the ship.

A secretary enters to leave a cup of coffee on the desk, and
hurriedly leaves.
Good, schedule a meeting with
Legal to review the next contract.
I need to make sure we can handle
the growing demand of shipments
going out of here.


Right away sir.
Preparations are in full swing for a dinner party. 3 cooks
are in the kitchen busily stirring, tasting, and prepping
food for service. Servers are dressed in crisp white shirts
and black skirts or slacks. Trays of eggrolls and spring
rolls are set on the kitchen table, ready to be served.
Another staff member polishes glassware.
Vietnamese pop music plays in the background through the
reel to reel player in the living room. The adjoining
dining room table is set with formal dinnerware and shiny
black lacquer chopsticks with pearl inlay. LINH is dressed
in a fancy gown twirling in the living room as MOTHER enters
the room in a beautiful Vietnamese aodai (gown), her hair in
a curled updo, revealing a single strand of pearls on her
Remember, tonight is a very
important night for your father.
You children must be on your best
behavior and stay in the kitchen
for your meal with your friends.
      (Being docile)
Yes, Mother.
Cars arrive outside of the gates, guests enter the villa.

Men are dressed in military officer uniforms or custom made
suits, their hair slicked back with styling crème. Their
wives elegantly dressed in custom made ao dais in fancy
materials and embellishments.

The dinner party begins, Father shakes hands as guests
arrive, Sinatra croons in the background. LINH's sisters,
DAO and HONG are in attendance, also dressed-up in formal ao
dais. Their style and stature similar to MOTHER's, feminine
and elegant.
The groups naturally split between the men and women.


Everyone is deep in conversation, sprinkled with laughter.
The air is filled with cigarette smoke.
      (Holding up bottle
       of cognac)
If this deal goes through soon,
we'll be back here again with an
extra special bottle.
All the men hold up their glasses and cheer.

The women are in the other corner looking on. Mother smiles
but seems disengaged.
                       MRS. NGUYEN
You must be very proud. This deal
is huge for his company.
      (smiling tightly)
Yes, he's been working on it for a
long time. He says the banks will
be coming to him for loans if this
goes through.
                       MRS. NGO
Oh who cares what the men are
doing. Let's talk about wedding
planning. My daughter Thu cannot
decide on her wedding date. Her
fiancé is the one pushing for it,
can you imagine?
Everyone laughs and the ladies chime in on their own
children's dilemmas. DAO and HONG listening intently on
what their friends' mothers are saying about them.
LINH and THIEN are seated in the kitchen with a small group
of friends. They are eating spaghetti and bread, and clink
their glasses like their parents.
Let's finish eating so we can
watch TV upstairs.
Linh gets spaghetti sauce on the front of her gown by the
second bite.


You know we're not supposed to be
in there without an adult.
But all the adults are busy. Who
wants to watch TV?
Everyone raises their hands excitedly as THIEN shakes his
head at his sister.
      (Nods to a friend
       next to him)
She's getting herself in trouble
as usual.
The friend shrugs his shoulders in ignorance and laughs as
it won't be his problem.
Guests are seated to dinner, servers are busy serving food
from large platters, and standing in wait for requests.

Everyone is enjoying their food, drinking wine and liquors,
talking passionately amongst their group.
      (stands up)
I'd like to make a toast please.
Everyone stops.
We always say we should get
together like this more often so
I'm glad we could do it tonight.
                       MR. DOAN
It's about time!
Everyone laughs.
Tonight is special as we engage in
this venture together with Khang's
company. We hope this marks the
beginning of a very beautiful
friendship. But, not nearly as
beautiful as our wives.


                       MRS. DOAN
      (to MOTHER)
Isn't he a charmer?
      (smiling curtly)
It would seem so...
Everyone cheers loudly and clinks glasses. The dinner party
stretches into late evening as the group moves to after
dinner drinks and cigars in the portico for the men.
MOTHER and FATHER in heated discussion. LINH cracks her
door open to hear the loud voices.
      (looking exhausted)
It's 9AM on a Sunday, what could
be so important?
I don't have to tell you
everything I'm doing to pull this
If it's business, I wouldn't be
asking. But I don't believe you!
Believe what you want, I'm still
FATHER storms out of their room as LINH quickly closes her
door and runs to her window to watch him leave.

She considers going to her MOTHER but decides against it,
MOTHER didn't want to talk about it last time.
Open the gates, I'm driving
Yes, sir.


Father quickly backs car out the front gates leaving swirls
of dust.
Large Buddhist temple in the heart of the city. The streets
are wall to wall with people out celebrating the new year.
Driver can barely maneuver the car to the entrance and
abandons the idea of trying to get them any closer.

The family exits on the street to make their way to their
favored temple before midnight for their annual ritual of
prayer before the Lunar New Year.

The temple grounds are crowded and smoky from the
firecrackers and incense burning in large urns in the
courtyard. Visitors race to pick fortunes hanging from
kumquat trees. Although it is hectic, the mood is festive.
Inside the temple sits a large Buddha statue on an elevated
shrine. Platters of prayer offerings include fruits,
vegetarian dishes and sweets.

FATHER is greeted by a monk as everyone removes their shoes
to prepare for prayer. Each member is handed incense and
stand with head bowed to pray. The monk bangs on the gong
each time the family takes a bow. Incense are placed in
large urn in front of Buddha statue.
      (handing envelope)
To a great start to the new year
thay (teacher).
      (to MOTHER)
Thank you, we are so grateful for
your donation. Will you come see
the children soon?
Yes, after the new year, we will
bring supplies for the orphans. Do
you need more rice?
We will take anything you provide.
Thank you madam, we look forward
to your visit soon.


LINH is dressed in new aodai for Tet (Chinese New Year)
celebration. The loose tunic of the aodai hides her
tomboyish shape.

Living room is decorated in red and gold lanterns hanging
from the ceilings, cherry blossom stems in towering vases,
and red envelopes hanging from their branches. The table is
filled with sweets in red festive containers such as candied
peanuts, coconut and ginger, watermelon seeds and specialty
      (enters living
Chao (Hello) Ba Ngoai (Maternal
Linh, you are a little lady today.
Thank you, Ba Ngoai, Mother let me
pick this material for Tet.
The rest of the family enters, all wearing shiny new
clothes. They greet their grandmother and line-up to pay
respects and wish her a happy new year, the oldest going
Dao, this may be your last year to
get red envelopes from me.
Oh Ba Ngoai, can't you give me red
envelope even after I marry?
I think I can break the rule and
give to you both.
Each child takes their turn wishing grandmother, and then
their parents take their seats.
I wish my parents a year filled
with good luck, good fortune, and
lots of love.


      (Hiding their
Thank you cong (child), we wish
you health and happiness, high
academics, and staying out of
trouble this year.
LINH immediately opens her red envelope and stuffs the money
in her pocket.
Chinese new year celebration is in full swing. FATHER plays
cards with a group of men at the dining room table.
Clock strikes midnight.
LINH's other older brother TUAN is leading a dice game for
the children.
Alright kids, place your bets.
Will it be Squash, Crab, Fish,
Rooster, Deer or Lobster?
I'm betting Rooster cause I'm a
You always do, but you can't cry
when you lose!
I don't cry!
      (shakes the dice)
I'm not giving you money back if
you lose, just remember that!
And we have… Crab, Fish, and
LINH takes her money and runs to the next game where her
sisters are.
Her brothers can only shake their heads at their little
sister's rambunctiousness.


You can't play blackjack, you
don't know how yet.
I can watch, until I understand.
You can watch, just don't say
anything about the cards.
      (Hong's boyfriend)
How about you sit in my lap and
play with me?
Yes, thank you Anh Hung. I'll be
We'll see.
LINH's family is gathered at restaurant with another family,
her sister's future in-laws. A violin and guitar duet are
playing a French melody in the corner of the dining room.
Tables are covered with red and white checkered tablecloths,
bread baskets filled with baguettes and butter are being
passed around. Plates of steak frites, duck ragout, and
angel hair pasta fill the table. Everyone is in good

FATHER pats KIET on the back.
Kiet, congratulations on your
graduation and such high test
scores. Where will you go for
graduate school?
Thank you Sir. Mother thinks I
should consider going to the US,
but I don't want to be far from
KIET smiles at DAO with respect.


                       MRS. NGUYEN
We just thought an education
abroad would be best for him, he's
enjoyed our trips there so much.
      (holds up glass)
I don't disagree. We'll miss
having you at the company but… to
the children.
Everyone joins in excitedly.

LINH is busy buttering her massive slice of bread and eating
Wall clock reads 12:30PM. Children are in music class, the
music teacher plays the piano as children sing along to
Allouette. Suddenly, alarms start blaring in the distance.

Singing stops abruptly as children begin talking
frantically, some are crying out for their parents, the
ground shakes from another blast as ceiling tiles and paint
chips drop to the ground. Teacher is trying to keep the
calm but to no avail.
A teacher's aide is consoling several children in the
corner. LINH looks about worriedly, but not panicked.

Driver rushes in to the classroom.
Linh, we have to go. Your parents
are in the car. Let's get your
      (looking around)
But what about everyone else,
can't they go home too?
      (Stressed but
       trying to remain
You can't worry about your friends
right now, we don't know about
anyone's home situation. Your
Father will kill me if I take much


                       CHUONG (cont'd)
longer to get you two.
They run to THIEN's classroom.
LINH & THIEN run towards their car where MOTHER is waiting.
FATHER is in the other car with her siblings.
They can hear bombs dropping much closer in the distance
      (scared now)
Mother, what's happening, why is
everyone here? Where are we
      (Clutching a
The war is advancing this way, we
have to leave.
Leave? Leave for where? What
about our house, and our things?!
      (not convincingly)
That's not important now, I need
you two to listen to us. It's
going to be very different, think
of it like of an adventure!
Both vehicles swerve through the streets, the bombing never
ceases, the air is filled with black smoke, alarms continue
to blare. People are frantically running in the streets to
get home, get to safety, get away from the constant bombing.

LINH and THIEN stare out the car windows, watching
destruction of everything they know.

Vehicles continue through the city to the port of Saigon
where large tanker vessels are docked. People are clamoring
to get onto the vessels, armed security and military police
hold people back as they advance.


Vintage footage of a North Vietnamese tank barreling through
the gates of the presidential palace.
People rush towards the last U.S. Army helicopter trying to
evacuate Americans.
LINH and family sitting by baggage carousel in airport
terminal, not sure what to do next. Travelers stare at them
with disdain at their presence. Flight announcements on the
PA system in English and other foreign languages, none of
which LINH understands.
Crowds of citizens are advancing towards the gates where MPs
stand in wait, and fear. The ominous back skies are not due
to stormy weather, there is nowhere to escape the smoky bomb
laden city.
The crowd grows impatient as their hopes of getting out are
continuously dashed by forceful and armed MPs.
                       MILITARY POLICEMAN
      (cautiously scared)
Stand back, there is no room. We
will be forced to shoot anyone who
comes forward.
FATHER pushes through the crowd, holding THIEN in one arm as
LINH holds tightly to her MOTHER's tunic. Her other brother
and sisters push closer to stay together, huddled by the
driver and THIEN's nanny. LINH sees through the crowd that
her FATHER managed to push through to talk to a guard, but
the rest of the family is stuck.
Your life may not matter much
after today, but if you value it
right now, you are gonna let my
family through.
                       MILITARY POLICEMAN
I have my orders not to let
anybody through Sir.


You don't even know who your
orders came from son. I run this
shipping company that runs that
ship, so those orders are mine. I
think I've earned the right to get
past here and get my family
Military policeman moves quickly to unchain the gate as
people are furious at the injustice. They angrily protest
to no avail as LINH and family push through the gates to
board the ship.
                       MILITARY POLICEMAN
Immediate family only, who are
these two?
They are family!
                       MILITARY POLICEMAN
Sir, they are not your children.
Di Tu, you have to come with us.
Please Father, she can't stay,
there's nobody left here.
      (lifts jacket to
       reveal handgun)
We're coming through, all of us.
                       MILITARY POLICEMAN
You and I both know you don't want
to use that here.
I don't even want to leave my
country son, so I'm pretty
desperate for a reason to stay.
You gonna give me that reason?
Military policeman shrugs his head and moves aside. The
whole family with driver and nanny board the ship.
It is dark, dimly lit only with oil lamps. The damp smell
of mold mixed with urine is toxic in the confined space.


Rows and rows of blankets filled by people take up the
entire floor.
I don't feel good. I need to lie
Here, let me get this blanket open
and you stay here. Your father is
looking around for a better space,
you kids need to stay together.
Linh, don't wander away from us, I
can't find you among all these
She will be with me. I can't
believe I saw Thuy earlier, I need
to find her.
Your girlfriend should be the
least of your concern right now.
Your family needs you.
I know Mother, no harm in having
something else to think about
right now.
MOTHER doesn't disagree. She clutches THIEN to her chest
and strokes his temple until he falls asleep.
FATHER is standing at a railing, one among hundreds of
immigrants onboard. Many are seasick, barely able to get
over the rail to vomit. The ship is at deep seas now, no
land in site.

FATHER is speaking heatedly with a shipboard mate.
      (pulls out
       Vietnamese dong)
I just need a little milk for my
      (waves away money)
Your money is no good here Sir,
what is anybody going to do with


                       SHIPMATE (cont'd)
that now?
He walks away leaving FATHER despondent.
A small group is gathered at the bow of the ship at sunset.
A body is wrapped in sheets, as family members hover and
chant prayers for the dead.

LINH comes running up to the scene and is stopped by the
muscular arms of her brother TUAN.
Don't, you shouldn't be here!
      (looks at him
Who is it? You know who it is!
It's not important now, she's
better off.
She, who?
Thuy's mother. She was sick
before they got on here, and now
they're just gonna throw her to
the sea.
      (Rushing forward)
They can't do that. She has
family onboard.
      (Holding Linh back)
Don't, you don't understand. Where
are they supposed to keep her?
There's no room for the living,
what are we supposed to do with
the dead?
LINH turns in time to see the body rolling off the ship and
plunges into the dark waters. The group begins to dissipate
and THUY is left with just her sister to watch her Mother's
body sink into the deep sea.


TUAN wants to go to her but has to contend with his stubborn
little sister not going away.
23 Days Later
The ship is nearing landfall and preparing to dock at a
small port on the island of Guam. A stretch of the island
reveals a city filled with tents to house refugees.

People crowd onto the upper decks to get a glimpse of where
they've landed. There is excitement that they are finally
getting off, and it appears safe from war and violence.
Now officially refugees, people line up to get off the ship.
They are guided by Red Cross workers to form lines for
paperwork. Translators walk up and down the lines providing
Please be patient. We have room
for you here. You will need to
complete paperwork so we can
account for everyone.
We will bring food and water to
you. Please make sure the
children are fed, and let us know
if anyone in your family is ill or
running a fever.
      (hands mother
Fill in your family name here. All
of the family members and ages and
date of birth.
MOTHER takes the clipboard and asks TUAN to carry the
Samsonite suitcase to a table to start filling out the
paperwork. It is fortunately in Vietnamese so she is able
to complete it. She digs through the suitcase for documents
that are needed, and carefully locks it again when done.


Tent city is large and crowded, housing tens of thousands of
displaced refugees. There are different color flags posted
around Sections, each Section is assigned a schedule for
bathrooms, showers, and meals.

LINH's family leaves their tent and walks to the large
circus size canopy where the long food line starts.
Another line, and for what?
No one responds.
You wait (to Mother), I'm going to
see if there's anyone better to
deal with this.
FATHER circles the tent and recognizes no one. People watch
him with distrust, some recognizing how he got the family on
the ship. His impatience wears thin and he goes outside for
a smoke instead.
The family proceeds to get trays and plates for plain white
rice, some sort of meat in sauce and canned vegetables. They
eat mostly the bread rolls.

As they walk back, they notice a group of men playing cards,
young people are gathered listening to music on a battery
operated radio, and kids are kicking around a soda can in
the dirt. Mother has a despondent look of not knowing how
long they will be here.
Finally a recognizable face runs into the airport terminal,
apologetic to Father.
Anh (older brother) Kiet, how are
My little Linh, you've gotten
thin! Did you not eat the whole
way here?


KIET embraces everyone, and holds DAO a bit longer as he
hasn't seen her since he was last home for Christmas break.

KIET leads them into a van parked at the curb. Everyone
puts their single bag of belongings in the back and gets
into the van. FATHER sits in front with KIET and he starts
to drive out of the airport.
It's very good of you to get us.
We would have had to wait for
sponsorship if no one was willing
to accept us.
Yes, sir, it's a very good thing
that I'm here and you decided to
come here.
We didn't have much choice. What
were we going to do in France?
As they enter the city limits, the Golden Gate Bridge, San
Francisco Bay, and Transamerica building come into view. The
kids are marveling at the spacious and clean freeways and
buildings. The structures are so tall and solid and the air
is clean.

KIET turns off the freeway and continues to a neighborhood
with small attached homes.

But rather than a home, they pull up to an apartment
This is the best I could do at the
moment, sir.
We appreciate it, really. It's an
improvement over that ship and
Family enters a plainly furnished 2 bedroom apartment. There
is a brown stripe couch and chair, a wooden coffee table,
the eating area has a card table and folding chairs. The


walls are bare, but for the chipped paint spots.

Bedrooms have queen size mattresses thrown down on the floor
with plain white sheets laid on top and a few covered
Again, this is the best I could do
to get you set-up.
Don't worry, son. We are a little
low on resources right now so we
can't expect much.
Sorry, it wasn't furnished so I
bought some things from the second
hand store. The sheets are new
Thank you dear.
      (hands over
       shopping bag)
Here is a little something for
tonight, in case anyone is hungry.
I'll come by in the morning. Good
night everyone.
Mother smiles at him gratefully and everyone mumbles their
good night as MOTHER starts to unpack the grocery bag. She
takes out packaged cookies, crackers, a cereal box, instant
coffee, milk, and cups of ramen noodles. LINH rushes to the
cookies as no one stops her, but instead smiles at her
MOTHER puts some water in the kettle on the stove for the

DAO follows KIET out.
Downstairs on the steps in front of the building, KIET
embraces her and lets her cry into his arms.


How can things have changed so
much in just a few months? Father
still thinks there's a chance to
go back.
That's not what the news is
saying. It's over, the country is
fallen and everything we had
there. My parents ended up in
Hong Kong with my uncle.
Are they coming to be with you?
You're here by yourself.
Well, I'm used to being here. Not
sure Americans are used to me, but
I try to ignore it. School is
really hard because of the
language, and the way I look.
You look pretty American to me.
And you're driving like you know
It was sink or swim. They sent me
here and paid for everything I
needed, I had to make it work. I
just don't know what happens now,
where's the money going to come
from to keep me in school?
Have you spoken to them? What do
they say?
They keep saying they can manage,
but I don't see how. I still have
a few more years to finish.
The night air is chilly in San Francisco as Dao shivers.
You better get back, I'll come by
in the morning.


DAO enters the apartment as her family is settling down to
Even with the windows closed, the apartment is cold. DAO and
HONG sleep on one mattress fully-clothed, LINH and her
parents sleep on the other. Her brothers are on the floor.
KIET knocks on the door at precisely 8AM.
Chao (good morning) Bac (Mrs.).
Cong (young person), you're so
I wanted to bring you food in case
you were hungry. I went to
Chinatown this morning.
He puts down pink pastry boxes filled with dumplings and
charsui bao. The family gathers and happily devours the
treats. KIET puts water in a pot to make coffee.

Chi DAO watches him, proud of his confidence and
What news do you have from your
parents Kiet?
They sent word from Hong Kong sir,
they are safe there for now.
Good, good, I will need to connect
with your father soon. He was
helping us with something.
Father did not mention sir, but I
can place a call to him for you if
you'd like?
How do we call Kiet? I don't see
a telephone here.


We have to order the service, I
can make the appointment. I think
you probably need some other
things around here, we could go to
the store today.
The family walks around the store, in awe of the selection
of goods. They fill the shopping carts with household
items, food products, and health and beauty essentials.

LINH and THIEN are riding on the shopping carts having the
most fun they've had in months. Everyone is happy except
FATHER who is thinking about how to pay for everything.
      (at register)
Put everything on the belt, it
will move up.
      (watches items go
But how will we carry everything
They have bags for everything.
KIET takes out a credit card to pay. FATHER is displeased
but grateful at the same time.
You know we're good for it son.
I'm happy to help sir, you are
family and I'm really glad to have
family in America with me.
They unload everything into the van and drive to Chinatown.
The family is seated at 2 round tables in a noodle
restaurant with bowls of steaming noodles in front of them.
The restaurant is shabby but busy, a sign of authenticity
judging by its local patrons.


      (closing his eyes
       to sniff)
This roast duck noodle soup is the
best thing I ever ate.
You are forgetting your favorite
French restaurant back home, you
never complained about the pomme
frites there.
Will we ever go back there Father?
I hope so son, I don't know if I
can make it here.
After lunch, they leave the restaurant and go next door to
the Asian market.
MOTHER is very pleased with the selection at the market.
Meats are in refrigeration, seafood still live in tanks,
produce is clean and fresh, bundled for handling. Everything
under one roof and assembled on shelves for ease of
You don't have to go to different
places to get ingredients.
No Bac, everything in one store.
And it's fresh. They deliver
several times a week. And the
butchers speak Vietnamese!
How about pho tonight?
      (in unison)
Everyone helps to load up the shopping carts with
ingredients for their first home cooked meal in America.


Loud banging on exterior gate, Military Police demanding
entry. The driver quickly opens the gates to 2 MPs and a
senior officer, they walk briskly to the front door just as
the door is opened by FATHER.
We have orders for Mr. Le, come
with us now.
      (Standing tall)
What is this about?
You'll find out at headquarters.
      (to mother)
They probably just want to
question me.
You don't know that, what if it's
You know what you need to do.
FATHER is escorted out to the waiting military jeep, keeping
his head and posture upright to show confidence as the
children are surely watching.
MOTHER shuts the door behind them and turns to see everyone
behind her in panic mode.
      (crying but not
They are going to question him,
maybe they will let him go if they
think he doesn't have any
influence on the former
government. (Not convinced)
Mother, what are they doing, where
are they taking him?


How soon will we know?
I'll have someone find out.
There's nothing we can do but
The household huddle together in the foyer crying and
consoling each other, letting the reality sink in that the
aftermath of war is now starting to affect them.
MOTHER rushing into the office, 2 secretaries stand as she
enters the room. They are startled by her presence, she has
rarely come to the office. They seem nervous, as though she
will ask for something they can't or don't know how to
Where is Hai?
      (quickly picks up
He's in the shipyard Madam, I will
call him to come back in.
MOTHER proceeds to the office to wait. The secretaries are
relieved MOTHER wasn't demanding something more of them but
still on high alert as something is seriously wrong. HAI
enters office panting from running and surprised to see
      (visibly nervous)
Bac (Mrs.) Le, how can I help you?
Hai, Ong (Mr.) has been taken
away. I need you to brief me on
activity around here, we don't
know how long we need to manage
without him.
Yes Madam. He has been preparing
for the change since the Fall. We
cannot get shipments out of here
so we've been stuck with inventory
that's been ordered but not paid


                       HAI (cont'd)
Bring me everything. I want a
close look at what we have, we
can't sit on things that can't
move. We need to get it off the
ships and offload it in-country,
for whatever we can get for it.
Liquidate everything.
Right away madam.
MOTHER looks out the window at an empty port with no
activity. Even the brightness of day can't mask the gloom
that has overtaken the city.
MOTHER and HAI and another office assistant are seated at
the conference table with files open. Lists are being made
on paper pads of inventory.
This lot is perishable, needs to
go first. Start with Kiet's
father and see what connections he
has to markets and restaurants
that can use the food items.
HAI picks up the rotary phone and places call.
Mr. Khang Nguyen please.
                       MR. NGUYEN'S SECRETARY
He's not in today sir, who's
calling please?
This is Hai from Miller Shipping,
with Mrs. Le. We have an urgent
matter to discuss with him.
                       MR. NGUYEN'S SECRETARY
I think it's best to speak to Mrs.
Nguyen, I'm not sure when Mr.
Nguyen will be back in.
HAI hangs up.


      (Looking puzzled)
He's not there, not sure when he's
MOTHER picks up the phone to call MRS. NGUYEN at home.
Chi (older sister), where is he?
                       MRS. NGUYEN
They took him. I heard your
husband is gone too, I called the
house this morning, Dao told me.
Yes, I'm at the office trying to
get things situated.
                       MRS. NGUYEN
What do I do now? I don't know
what to do, he never told me to
prepare for anything like this.
I don't think you can ever prepare
for something like this. Seeing
their father being taken away will
traumatize them for life. But you
have to stay strong for them.
                       MRS. NGUYEN
I'm not strong. Not like you. I
was never on my own or had a
career before him. I don't know
how to exist without him.
Let's be honest, we are on our own
a lot. You have to learn how to
take care of things now.
                       MRS. NGUYEN
I need Kiet to come back now. He's
old enough to help me. Khoi is
only fifteen.
Do you really think Kiet is better
off coming back here? You have to
think about his future too. I
have to wrap up here and find out


                       MOTHER (cont'd)
where they took him. I'll call
you later.
                       MRS. NGUYEN
Please don't forget, I need your
I won't, I promise.
MOTHER hangs up the phone and immediately picks up to call
their attorney.
Anh Binh, I need your help. Can
you find out where they took him?
I've been calling around since
this morning, no one will confirm.
I can't just show up at the
detention center and demand to see
I know, I can't have you at risk
too. I need you to help me with
the company.
I'll track him down and get you
visitation. It's not looking good
on a release.
MOTHER hangs up and continues working on the lists. She is
focused and determined, almost grateful that the task is
giving her purpose.
Several months later...
MOTHER is seated in the living room facing three staff
members. The shades are drawn for natural sunlight but the
untended gardens are brown and bleak. The living room no
longer decorated with fresh flowers or colorful fruit
platters. The pictures are in the same place but feels out
of place with the somber times.


I am giving you all notice that we
cannot keep you past this month.
You have all been great help to
us, and I hope you can find your
families and work to keep
supporting them.
                       HEAD COOK
We would come back whenever you
need us.
Yes, my family will always be in
the same village. You can always
find me.
Thank you all. The children will
miss you also. We can use your
help this month to teach them how
you do things around here. And,
we'll be taking in some boarders
so we need to rearrange the rooms
so the children will be together
and leave 2 rooms to rent.
Madam, do you know these boarders?
We do, I couldn't take a chance on
strangers in this house. They are
friends of the children who lost
family and homes. We are helping
them and they are helping us with
whatever they can pay.
Yes, madam.
MOTHER enters the prison visitors area by herself. She sits
at a wooden table and waits. There is only one other
visitor waiting but they avoid eye contact, too ashamed to
be there. FATHER is brought in wearing dirty grey prison
outfit and visibly thin.


      (holding back
How are they treating you?
I'm fine, they are not hurting me.
Just asking a lot of questions
about my position with the
government officials. I tell them
it's just business. You need to
make arrangements. Be smart about
things. Do you understand?
It took a lot just to get me in
here. I don't know who to trust.
There's so much to do, and the
children are terrified.
Tell them I'm here so that they
are safe. I am the only one they
think is a threat, they are
teaching me to conform. I don't
give a shit about their politics.
I just need to get out of here.
It is a rare moment of tenderness between them, one they
hadn't shared in quite some time.
Do they say anything about a
No, doesn't look like it's going
to happen. How are you managing,
did you get to the bank in time?
I got some, but the other accounts
are frozen. We're making do, but
I needed to reduce staff and take
in boarders to have some income. I
am selling things off when I can
but no one has need or money to
buy anything.
      (showing his hands)
You just need to hold it down for
a bit.


They are not allowed to touch so MOTHER could only stare at
his rough calloused hands, they don't have to speak of where
it came from.
MOTHER looks around the room at other inmates as she leaves,
many who were formerly businessmen, academias, and
government officials no longer look their parts.
MOTHER and TUAN are showing 2 men the reel to reel player
and the television set in the now empty living room.
We just had this shipped from
Japan during Tet. It's
practically brand new.
No doubt it's a nice set, we just
don't have buyers right now. We
can take it off you for 1M Dong,
and that's stretching it because I
can't offload it right away.
The only chance of selling
something like this is to the
current military or government
heads, but they are not exactly
our regular customers.
Suddenly, the electricity goes out and they are in the dark.
TUAN lights a candle.
      (Ushers the men)
Curfew time on the dot. You
better get going.
What about the player? There's a
whole collection of music,
American music too.
I would really like this player
for myself, but I can't pay you
for it.
Then the television is the only
thing going. Come by tomorrow
when it's safe and you can have it


                       MOTHER (cont'd)
for 1M Dong.
Yes madam.
The buyers leave and TUAN follows to lock the front gates.
He comes back into the living room.
Does it make sense to keep the
Absolutely if there's no payment
for it. It's one of your father's
prized possessions, I won't part
with it unless I have to. I can't
accept IOUs. Would be nice for
him to come home to. (Not looking
DAO and HONG are cleaning their room as LINH and THIEN come
running in and jump on their beds.
I told you guys to never touch my
Smoothing the corners of the sheets as they get off.
There's nowhere to play up here
now that the rooms are rented out.
We're lucky to still be in this
house, no one's come to kick us
out of here.
You kids need to understand how
hard it is out there. Hung's
family lost their home, they're
living with his grandmother 8 to a


FATHER and MOTHER enter the foyer as the driver follows
behind handing their suitcases to the housekeeper. LINH and
THIEN come running in excited to see their parents who had
been on an overseas trip.

FATHER stops the housekeeper to take one suitcase from her
and starts to open it.
Look what I brought you from
He shows LINH a red Viewmaster and a stack of animated
discs. He inserts a Snow White disc and she looks through
the viewer, beaming with excitement.
Oh Father, it's so pretty, look at
all the colors! It's like I can
touch them (reaching out in front
of her).
THIEN is busy tearing up the box to his new remote control
car and inserts the batteries quickly to start the car chase
around the front room.
Group of men including FATHER in dirty grey prison outfits
breaking gravel with sledgehammers.

Another group scoops up the gravel into wheel barrels, and
another group hauls the debris away to be dumped in a large
      (wiping sweat)
You know this is meaningless work.
                       FELLOW INMATE1
Yeah, there's no need for this
gravel. There's no industry going
on out there, no business. Nobody
needs this gravel for nothing.
                       FELLOW INMATE2
They're just trying to break us.
Show us how meaningless we are
like the work they make us do.


This is the biggest test of
patience, for us all. Something
I'll admit, I didn't have much of
The group agrees in unison but breaks up and gets back to
work as a prison guard approaches.
MOTHER is seemingly nervous and embarrassed at counter with
KIET. There are many customers in the store, asking to look
at jewelry in the cases. MOTHER is looking to negotiate the
sale of gold.
      (speaking in low
You have to be able to give me
more than that.
                       JEWELRY STORE OWNER
The quality of your gold is good,
but the price is market driven.
Look at it.
Points to commodity price ticker on the wall.

MOTHER shakes her head and reluctantly agrees to sell the
remaining gold. Store owner leaves the room to complete
Thank you for taking me Kiet.
Of course Bac, anything I can do.
But why didn't you want Dao to
come with us?
I don't want the kids to be
concerned. This is the last of
what I was able to bring. It's
carried us through for a while,
but we'll need to find work.
Your papers should be arriving
soon. I can help you find work,
even without English.


What I really need is to be in
touch with your parents, why
haven't they called us?
I don't understand either. Every
time I talked to them, I asked
them to call you. I told them
I've helped you get settled and
you have a phone number. Mother
was glad to hear that I helped but
I don't understand her reluctance
to call.
Social worker's office is messy, piled high with papers and
file folders. An overfilled ashtray sits on the corner of
her desk.
LINH and her parents sit across from her.
                       SOCIAL WORKER
How many in your family?
      (puts up 7 fingers)
                       SOCIAL WORKER
Write everyone's name and
birthdates here.
Hands application to LINH who starts to complete it.
                       SOCIAL WORKER
How much do you pay for rent?
      (holds up 3
                       SOCIAL WORKER
And utilities?
I don't know.


                       SOCIAL WORKER
      (points up at
Utilities. Electric.
                       SOCIAL WORKER
      (shows water in a
Gas, water.
      (holds up 3
       fingers and makes
       a zero with other
Father looks away in anguish, not wanting to answer any of
the questions, in complete disbelief that he needs a
hand-out. He leaves the room.
My father sick.
                       SOCIAL WORKER
Does he need a doctor? You will
get MediCal to take him to a
LINH smiles at her, thinks to herself it's not the kind of
illness a doctor can fix.
FATHER drives an old Dodge Dart into the school parking lot.
LINH and THIEN get out with their parents and enter the
front office. LINH hands over the paperwork at the counter.
                       SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR
Good morning children, welcome to
Noriega School.
LINH and THIEN attempt smiles in unison.
                       SCHOOL ADMINISTRATOR
You are in time for the Pledge of
Allegiance. (Points to flag
outside). School will be out at
3:00, you can pick them up then.
Parents not understanding. School administrator points at
wall clock, raises 3 fingers and waves them to come back



LINH & THIEN walk out to the flag where all the other
students are gathered, facing the flag. On the intercom,
the principal starts the Pledge as all students raise hands
to their chest and chime in. LINH and THIEN stand still and
silent, unsure of how to behave.
They are escorted to classes. Teachers welcome them with
tight smiles while other children smirk at their looks and
                       MS. FRANKLIN
Students, welcome Linh. She is
not only new to our school but new
to our country, so please help her
get started.
LINH takes a seat in the back while all eyes are on her.
      (other kids laugh)
Look at her hair, it like a boy's.
And those pants look like my
LINH turns away from them towards the window, the whispers
don't stop even when she thinks the teacher is telling
everyone to settle down.
This is a defining moment for her, the first moment when she
must stand on her own and be brave in this new world. There
is no going back.
It's recess, grade schoolers fill the playground. The
student body is primarily Caucasian, just a sprinkling of
Hispanics and Blacks. A few Asians are of Chinese descent,
no other Vietnamese students yet. LINH & THIEN are among
the first to arrive from Vietnam.

LINH & THIEN are on the swings by themselves.
Did you eat anything? I didn't
know what that orange stuff was.
I think it was cheese.


What kind of cheese is orange?
The kind that's not brie.
A black student from LINH's class walks near them, almost
says something but decides against it. She didn't seem like
she was going say something unkind, LINH makes a mental note
to try to befriend her later, although unsure how they will
actually "talk".
End of school day, LINH & THIEN are walking home using a
hand drawn map. They pass other children playing ball and
riding bikes in the streets, simple childhood activities
they are not invited to engage in.
They are completely ignored and shunned.
Inside a soap factory. FATHER is dressed in blue coveralls
and gloves, hovering over a bin full of milled soap,
scooping it onto the conveyor belt to be shaped into bars.

Bell chimes at 12Noon signaling lunchtime. He walks to the
break room with other workers and takes his Igloo out of his
locker to eat his packed Tupperware lunch.
MOTHER dressed in housekeeping uniform, carries a bucket
full of cleaning products into the bathroom. She leaves the
bucket on the floor and pulls on gloves to pick-up clothing
left on the floor and places them on the chairs. Starts to
strip the bed sheets and pillow covers and drops it into the
bin outside of the door. As she steps out, a fellow
housekeeper waves to her from the lower floor. MOTHER
smiles back.
LINH & THIEN come home to an empty house. With jobs and
social services support, the family has moved into a 2-story
3 bedroom rental home. It was left furnished with dingy
carpeting and thin polyester curtains, but there was no rush
or resources to make changes. The front and back yards are
unkept with overgrown weeds taller than Linh, but no


gardener was in sight.

They make an afternoon snack and both sit down at the plain
metal kitchen table to start on their homework.

At 5PM, Linh starts the pot of rice in the cooker and sets
the table with rice bowls and chopsticks.
Do you think anyone else will be
home for dinner?
Doubt it, Chi Dao told me she'd
see us this weekend cause they all
have to work tonight.
I miss them. Anyway, are you
done? Can we watch TV now?
Yeah, I'll finish my reading later
before bed.
Not sure you want to risk getting
in trouble later, if Father's not
in a good mood.
THIEN decides not to risk it and stays in the kitchen to
read. LINH goes into the living room and turns on her
favorite after school show, the Brady Bunch. She is trying
to understand the dialogue, but mostly does comparison at
the size of their home and their housekeeper to their old
life. She decides their old life is much better in

At 6PM when her parents arrive home, LINH quickly gets up to
help MOTHER in the kitchen while FATHER takes a shower.

It is just the four of them sitting down to dinner, the
other siblings busy working evening jobs.
So how was the first week of
      (trying to sound
It's really clean, and they have a
big library.


LINH & THIEN instinctively do not deliver negative news.
They do not share their difficulties, knowing their parents
are struggling every day with their own adjustments.
      (acting coy)
Not "but", just different.
MOTHER and FATHER in heated discussion. It was unexpected
as FATHER had been nothing been dutiful in the months since
their arrival.
We trusted them with that money! I
can't keep working in that soap
factory, ripping up my hands.
We're not getting anywhere!
You think it's easy for any of us?
I'm scrubbing toilets so I can
buy food. You think my hands are
any better off?
There's got to be a way to get to
them. Tell Kiet to reason with
them, or I swear to God, I'm done
with him.
      (fearing the worst)
You can't do that, they love each
other. It's not his fault!
LINH is sitting with MOTHER across from teacher in her
classroom for her first parent teacher conference.
                       MS. FRANKLIN
Mrs. Le, I want you to know that
Linh tries very hard. I see that
she does a lot of extra work.


      (not understanding)
                       MS. FRANKLIN
I think the math is easy for her,
but of course, we understand she
is not yet reading and writing as
well. So her report card is not
reflective of her true work. I
know she will get better.
      (Looks at report
The conference is over in a few minutes and the teacher can
only hope she's conveyed a positive message.

LINH walks out of her school with Mother in silence, afraid
of what she will tell FATHER.
MOTHER hands over the report card to FATHER.
Go easy on her, it's month 3 in a
new everything.
FATHER studies it closely even though it's all foreign to
him. There is a grid from 1-5, and the numbers on the
report card are 3s and 4s at best, enough to indicate it's
not top grades.
You have to do better, this one is
excused but not another one like
      (grateful for the
Yes Father.
The family is looking through rows of used clothing, pulling
out coats and trying them on. They had never experienced
cold fronts before, resigning to buying heavier coats in



They make their purchases and walk out of the store with
brown paper bags.

LINH sees a classmate across the street and turns to walk
Where are you going?
I changed my mind, can I look at
that dress again?
      (points across the
She's lying, she doesn't want to
run into that girl.
Just give her moment.
We all have to get through the
hate, no reason to give them more
fuel against your sister.
THIEN shrugs his shoulders and leans against the store
window to wait.
LINH just happens to be passing the front window and sees
Father in the car. She's not sure how long he'd been sitting
there. He is hovered over the steering wheel, and seemingly
wiping tears from his cheeks. She ponders going out to
greet him and decides against it. She runs to her room
KIET and DAO see LINH run by. They are seated on the couch
next to each other listening to the Saturday Night Fever
soundtrack. HONG and her boyfriend VU are practicing the
      (calls out to Linh)
Hey Peanut, where you going?


LINH doesn't respond.
I don't understand why your
parents are not calling us back.
I know, I keep asking them to. I'm
telling them it's affecting our
relationship, and my relationship
with your father but still
MOTHER overhears their conversation when she enters the
You kids need to know the truth.
Hong, I need to talk to your
DAO and KIET look up startled, HONG and VU leave the room.
What's wrong Mother?
Kiet, before we evacuated, I sent
some money and gold to your
parents for safekeeping. They
never told us they were planning
to stay in Hong Kong. We just
assumed they would come here to be
with you.
How much are you talking about
Tens of thousands of US dollars.
That can't be.
We're not putting this burden on
you, but you must know how
important it is to us. It's our
livelihood Kiet.


Bac, I would do anything to help
you. My parents have said nothing
about this matter.
Of course not, it's not an easy
thing to tell your son. I don't
want you to confront them either,
I just don't know how to resolve
this without tearing us all apart.
What does Father expect to happen?
      (looks sullen)
At this point, he thinks Kiet
should stand up to his father
about it.
I'm going to do it. I need to
Dao goes to the window and sees her Father still in the car,
understanding why her sister ran out of the room but
surprised at her discretion.
      (turns to Kiet)
You need to get it out of them, or
cut if off.
Kiet is surprised by her demand but agrees.
Dao is sitting at her vanity
The living room has a little color from the single flower
vase and tray of fruits. Mother is arranging the shrine, in
preparation for the tea ceremony for DAO's wedding to KIET.

DAO is upstairs, adjusting her matching hat to her aodai.
The dress is bright red and gold, with an emblem of a huge
dragon down the front, a symbol of luck and prosperity.


      (with a group of
       girls all in
       matching ao dais)
Chi Dao, they will be here very
I'm ready, you girls remember to
bargain hard! Don't let them fool
you that they can't pay!
Bell rings from external solid front gate. For their
safety, the see-through wrought iron gate was replaced.

Group of bridesmaids and other girls race to the gate. HONG
opens the peep thru window in the door.
Who's calling??
We've come for Chi Dao, let us in.
There's no free entrance here.
This bride is worth a lot!
Please, we are in a Communist
ruled country. We have nothing!
      (closes peep door)
Don't use that excuse. Everybody
is, but we know how much Hang got
at her door last month!
HUNG turns to the groomsmen outside.
Alright boys, they're expecting
something. What do we have?
Alright, alright, Mother helped me
out cause she really likes Dao.
Start with 30,000 Dong.


      (knocking on gate)
We have an offer of 30,000 Dong.
HONG opens and closes the peep door. Turns around and
laughs to her sister and other girls.
She's making it hard boys. What
else we got?
Go to 50,000 Dong
      (knocks again)
We have an offer of 50,000 Dong.
      (opens and closes
       peep door quickly)
You are closer.
Can you give us a counter-offer?
You're gonna have to get to six
      (turning to
Alright boys, we've tapped out at
100,000 Dong. We good as last and
Everyone nods.
Alright ladies, as much as we want
to gain entrance, our last and
final offer is 100,000 Dong.
Gate opens for the wedding party.
Well why didn't you say so?
The wedding party enters carrying trays covered in red
cloth, led by KIET's mother. She embraces MOTHER as she
enters the home.


The gift trays are placed on the tables and the covers are
removed to reveal gifts of jewelry, cakes, and sweets for
the bride.

MOTHER proceeds with the ceremony, lighting incense for DAO
and KIET (in wedding ao dai) to pray to Buddha and their
ancestors on the shrine.

The tea ceremony begins with the grandmothers sitting first
to be served tea by DAO and KIET and receive red envelopes.
Ceremony continues with the mothers, aunts and uncles and
all elder family members.
If only their fathers could be
                       MRS. NGUYEN
It wouldn't have been fair to make
them wait.
DAO and KIET do final prayers to Buddha, as HONG helps DAO
get up from kneeling, she whispers to her.
You're next!
DAO (in white wedding dress) and KIET (in a suit) are in
receiving line at their wedding reception. The restaurant
is sparsely decorated with flowers and balloons. The
Beatle's, She Loves You plays in the background through a
speaker system.
Chao Bac.
                       MR. VO
Congratulations to you both, your
fathers would be proud.
We will let them know you honored
us with your presence tonight Sir.
Guests continue to greet the couple and enter restaurant to
be seated. As the restaurant fills up to about 100 guests,
dinner service begins.

The first course is a cold cut platter and large bowls of


steaming soup are brought tableside and ladled for each
Wedding guests are enjoying the third course of scallops and
mushrooms. Music flows from Vietnamese to American pop
music, the Carpenters, Lobo, Captain and Tennille.

DAO emerges with a dress change to a red Vietnamese ao dai
embellished with sequins.

She and KIET visit every table and thank guests and receive
red envelopes. KIET hands them to HONG for safe keeping.
DAO has a final dress change to a fitted dance dress. The
happy couple cut their cake and take their first dance as a
married couple.

Dancing starts and older couples take to the dance floor for
cha-chas and tangos.

It is the happiest MOTHER has been in a long time.
LINH's family is seated at table with KIET's family, both
families without the fathers.

DAO and KIET are in traditional wedding outfits, cautiously
smiling at each other. This is their actual wedding dinner,
no fancier than a family dinner on a Saturday evening.
I'd like to propose a toast
Everyone smiles at him and holds up glasses of water.
To Dao, who has finally consented
to be my wife. I know this isn't
the celebration we dreamed of, but
the important thing is the joining
of our lives and our families.


      (stands up)
Kiet, you have been welcomed into
this family for a long time, we
are happy it is finally official.
We all wish you both the best for
100 years of happiness and some
grandchildren for your mother and
                       MRS. NGUYEN
Yes, a grandbaby would bring us
much needed joy.
Well if it's grandbabies you want
Mother, you might already have
some out there!
                       MRS. NGUYEN
      (smiles at Dao)
Yes Khoi, with your reputation I
don't doubt it. But I'm hoping
for one who's mother I can have a
relationship with.
KIET pats his younger brother on the back lovingly,
acknowledging their vast differences.
The interior of the home is very different. The furniture
is gone, replaced by plain wooden tables and chairs. There
are no electronics. The windows are wide open as the air
conditioning is clearly not running.
There are stacks of cardboard boxes everywhere. MOTHER is
seated at a makeshift desk looking at papers.
                       LINH (11)
Mother, Mr. Thai is here to
pick-up his order.
MOTHER looks through the boxes and pulls out a large
Run this out to him Linh.
LINH takes package out and hands to the customer.


                       MR. THAI
How is your Father, have you seen
No sir, only Mother does. He does
not allow us to visit.
MR. THAI nods in understanding and walks out the gates.
TUAN exits a movie theatre with his girlfriend THUY, her
sister THANH, and LINH.
We should be getting home, it's
almost curfew.
Thank you for the movie, it's been
so long.
      (Hugs Thuy)
Bye, I'll see you tomorrow.
THUY and THANH wave as they walk down the street to their
TUAN helps LINH onto the back of his motorbike.
Remember, we weren't out today.
Mother will not be happy with me
sneaking you out.
I know, I know. I don't want to
get in trouble and get stuck at
home forever!
They maneuver through the less crowded streets, there are
barely any vendors or businesses. Many homes are visibly
empty, boarded up or dark inside.

Suddenly, their motorbike is hit from the back and they are
knocked to the ground, the motorbike on top of their right
leg. TUAN quickly pulls himself out.
Oooowwwww, my foot!


TUAN gently lifts the motorbike to get LINH out. A crowd
has started to gather.
Did anyone see what happened?
      (Points to the
I saw it, a small cargo truck
bumped you, and took off!
      (examining her
Can you move it?
Yeah, I can, it just hurts.
I'm gonna put you on the bike and
push you to the pharmacy. I'll
just get something to clean you
up, so we can get home.
People in the crowd offer to help for a fee, but TUAN trusts
no one with his money, sister, or motorbike.

LINH hangs onto him as he slowly pushes her to the corner,
locks the motorbike, and carries her inside. He buys
bandages and wraps it around her foot.
Can we ride home? Are you scared?
No I'm not scared, how else are we
gonna get home?
TUAN laughs at her sarcasm.
TUAN slowly enters the front gate and quickly carries LINH
upstairs to her room.

He takes off the bandages and carries her into the bathroom
to clean her up.


I should just take a bath and
change. You can put the bandages
back on when I'm done.
I'll be back to check on you.
TUAN leaves her room and goes in to see HONG.
Mother's going to kill me.
      (Looks up from her
What for now?
Linh and I got into an accident.
HONG looks frantic and runs to LINH's room.
Why were you out with her?
I wanted to see Thuy. She had her
sister and Mother asked me to
watch Linh. Anyway, I think
Linh's foot is hurt.
LINH limps out of the bathroom. Her foot is badly bruised
and scratched, but seemingly not broken.
Sit down, let me see.
LINH winces as HONG lifts her foot onto the bed to look.
Can you move it?
Yeah, it's ok, just bruised and
scratched I think.
Well you can't hide it from
Mother, she'll see you limping.
Is she home?


Yes, she got home a little while
ago from the office. She brought
more stuff to sell. I should be
helping her.
I'll go, and I'll tell her.
      (examining foot)
It's not broken but badly sprained
from the fall. She'll need to
keep off her foot, for atleast a
few days.
Thank you doctor, that should keep
her out of trouble for a few days.
She's a lively one.
I just hope she grows out of her
rough and tumble tomboy ways. It
will be hard to find her a proper
I wouldn't worry about it, she'll
find her way. Do I need to see
Thien today?
No, he's actually healthy right
Well good, please let Mr. Le know
I send my regards.
      (passes Tuan in
Thank you doctor, I'll see you


I'll deal with you later. She and
you could have been really hurt.
It's dangerous for you to be out
there right now.
I know, I'm sorry. But you know
how insistent she is when she
wants something.
      (shakes her head)
Yes, too strong-willed. I don't
know who can handle that.
      (proudly of her)
I don't think you need to worry
about her. She handles herself!
MOTHER and FATHER seated at kitchen table. They are having
tea but neither has taken any sips. MOTHER is squeezing her
teacup tightly, seemingly to release stress.
I'm done with that family, you
need to tell Dao to quit that boy.
As much as I like that kid, he
can't be associated with her
You can't let this come between
them, they have nothing to do with
it. We made a mistake in putting
trust in other desperate people.
You're going to condone that
relationship? How can you even
look at him? How can he look at
I can look past it for their sake.
What if there's a grandchild? Can
you really love that child as
though half his blood isn't


                       FATHER (cont'd)
      (looking away from
We all pay for the sins of our
Awards assembly is taking place.
LINH's parents are in the audience with other parents.
Do you know what this is about?
No, she told me we should come. It
can't be that bad with all these
other parents here.
Welcome students, teachers,
faculty, and parents to our
year-end recognition assembly.

This year, we not only exceeded
our state testing goals, we have
outstanding achievement from many
students who are not only new to
our school, but new to our country
and language. I think you can
agree, that is deserving of
Audience claps softly.

Assembly continues with many students going up for awards.
Both LINH and THIEN receive individual awards for Math.
Our final award will be presented
by the receiving student's
teacher, Ms. Franklin.
                       MS. FRANKLIN
I am proud, to be the teacher of
this year's award recipient for
The Most Outstanding Student
because she has proven over and
over again, the principle


                       MS. FRANKLIN (cont'd)
foundation I try to teach my
students, that hard work always
pays off. Even when she didn't
understand or when she got it
wrong, she worked and reworked
until she knew I would give her
the marks she wanted.
She once told me, she couldn't
come home with anything less. And
she didn't say it out of fear, she
said it out of pride. So this
award goes to Linh My Le, for
doing the best work, all the time.
Audience claps loudly as LINH approaches stage for her
award. Her parents clap proudly, as MEAGHAN and others
snicker at her achievement.
It's 10PM. Father walks past a VW van covered in peace sign
stickers in the driveway to the front door and rings the
bell. He can hear a group of girls laughing inside, does
not change his mind about picking up his daughter.
                       MONICA'S MOTHER
Hello, Mr. Le.
FATHER nods, doesn't respond. LINH comes to the door, her
troop follows behind, watching FATHER curiously. MONICA's
mother in bell bottom cords and a rainbow tank top is a
stark contrast to FATHER's conservatism.
      (to Monica's
Thank you for having me.
                       MONICA'S MOTHER
      (To Father)
Thank you for letting her join the
troop. It's her first year with
Bluebird right?
FATHER nods again.


                       MONICA'S MOTHER
Are you sure she can't stay? We
always have a sleepover after an
event. The girls have a good
She go home.
      (smiling through
It's ok, I'm not allowed to sleep
                       MONICA'S MOTHER
      (Waves as they
See you next time.
LINH, THIEN, and FATHER are in a long line waiting to see
the Star Wars movie. Around them, everyone is talking
excitedly about the movie.
Father is impatient as he smokes the time away.
I can't believe I'm doing this for
you kids. It's just a movie, and
why are we waiting?
We have to wait for them to let us
But we have tickets, why can't we
just go in?
      (Pointing to the
Because the movie is sold out way
before the showing time. See
those people leaving because
there's no tickets?
Well maybe we don't need to see it
today then.


      (Moving with the
But we're lucky to get tickets,
we're going in now.
      (shakes his head)
Lucky, I haven't been lucky yet in
this country.
Movie previews begin as FATHER lights up a cigarette. LINH
quickly tells him to put it out but is too late as an usher
Sir, there's no smoking in here.
No Smoke?
No sir, I'm going to have to ask
you to leave.
      (Putting cigarette
No smoking in a theater? This is
a free country?
You can't smoke during the whole
movie. Can you do that?
Don't treat me like a child just
because you understand what they
are saying.
She didn't mean it like that.
Don't you chime in too, you're the
reason we're even here.
Both kids pipe down in hopes their FATHER just resigns
himself to staying so they can watch the movie.


As the previews start, FATHER watches, intrigued by the
special effects of American movie production. The battles
in the movie keep him interested, not caring at all for the
dialogue he does not understand.
It's their second summer in America. The first year of
transition was difficult as expected, but they've since
acclimated well, both accomplishing good grades, English
proficiency, and new friends.

LINH and THIEN ride bikes with a group of friends along the
Strand, up to the CliffHouse and cross over to Golden Gate

LINH is a tomboy in jeans and tshirt, short pixie haircut.
She is the only girl.

They pick berries in the park, play on the playground, play
catch with baseball mitts. Typical American children
enjoying the summer with their friends.
Bikes are laid down in front of house, unlocked. Group of
kids play Monopoly on the floor while others watch Tom and
Jerry on TV.
Who wants a Pop-Tart?
A what?
      (holds up box)
Pop-Tart, you don't know? Here,
I'll make you one.
LINH recalls the television commercial on this product.

They watch as Pop Tart goes into toaster and wait. As it
comes up piping hot, Danny throws it on a paper towel and
hands it to them.
Here's your snack.


      (being polite)
It's good, but sweet.
The sweeter the better! Stay for
dinner, my mom's gonna make tuna
We can't, we have to get home.
LINH and THIEN walk in from playing all-day, their parents
are talking in the living room to Vu, Hong's boyfriend.
Vu, look at this document for me,
how can you tell if it's
      (examines document)
This is an original. You have an
invoice number, you have numbered
containers with value of cargo,
and this stamp was your company
stamp that it was shipped in
February 1975?
Yes, I was there the day that
UNICEF shipment left port.
And it was going to Los Angeles?
Yes, the exports were coming here,
mostly rice and fruits.
We need to find out if it got here
and who received it.
Can we do that? It's in Los


We can start with some calls
Thank you Vu, this is the most
hopeful thing I've had in a long
Father pats Vu on the back as he leaves the room.
What's going on?
We don't know yet, but Father just
discovered some shipping invoices
that he didn't get payment on yet.
We just have to track it down.
Anh Vu can help with that?
Well, he's a new lawyer, we're
putting him to good use. I'm
happy to pay that boy a commission
for his troubles.
I think he'd be happier if you
gave him permission to marry.
They're not ready, Hong still
needs to get through school.
We want to get married Mother.
I know, but you know this is not
the right time.
Kiet did very well in his studies,
even without his parent's support
the past few years. He owes some
money for school but it was worth


I'm very proud of him, like he was
my son.
The job is in Los Angeles, and we
need to take it so he can start
getting experience. I need to go
with him.
Father will be very disappointed
you want to go.
He's been avoiding me for months.
I know he doesn't blame me but he
can't get past his anger. Maybe
the distance will do us good. I'll
tell the kids tonight.
Tonight? How soon do you expect
to leave?
He needs to decide on the offer
this week. He's not going to get
a lot of them, so he needs to take
Mother nods her consent and hugs Dao.
HONG & TUAN enters the room and LINH switches gears and sits
down at the dining room table with her stacks of magazine
order forms to play office.
Anh Tuan, be my patient!
      (To everyone)
Looks like she's got me again!
Everyone chuckles at LINH's will but doesn't rescue TUAN
from her game.


And why are you seeing the doctor
Because my sister is a pain in the
You can't see the doctor if you
don't tell me what's wrong.
LINH proceeds to write more information on the form and puts
a sticker on the upper right corner.
Has anyone seen the MediCal stamps
in the mail this month? It's
never been this late and I need to
see the doctor this week.
      (Looking at her
I don't think so.
TUAN glares at her.
What could have happened to it? No
one else can use it without ID,
why would it go missing?
Linh, can you just call the
Welfare office tomorrow and ask
about it?
      (Looking relieved)
Yes, Mother.
      (to Linh)
Better hope she doesn't find out
you've been playing with her
FATHER and VU exit airport and get into a cab.


They get out at the Vietnam Embassy in Washington DC.
They show identification at the front desk and wait to be

A secretary greets them and takes them up the elevator.
FATHER and VU are seated in a conference room with 2
Vietnamese embassy employees. VU is showing them the
original invoice, and proof of shipment he received from the
Port of Los Angeles.
The employees show a copy of bank draft made out to Father's
                       EMBASSY EMPLOYEE1
It would appear, this bank draft
made out to your company never
went through.
      (To Vu)
Yes, we were gone by then,
accounts were closed.
                       EMBASSY EMPLOYEE1
Well if it was never paid then we
need to track down where it is and
get it to the right party.
How long do you think that will
take? Should we wait here in DC?
                       EMBASSY EMPLOYEE1
      (chuckling a bit)
Nothing works that fast in DC sir,
I suggest you go home, and we'll
be in touch. I would expect it to
take a few weeks.
They leave the meeting elated, Father is very pleased with
Vu's help and the result.
Father and Vu are having dinner in a real restaurant with
white tablecloths and wait staff in long white aprons.


      (Raising a glass
       of cognac)
Vu, this is setting a new course
for our American life. You can't
imagine how this makes me feel
after all these years of struggle.
Sir, it has been a privilege to do
this for you. It is well
To the future!
FATHER and VU cheer to a successful business trip and newly
found old money.
FATHER takes time out to sight-see in Washington D.C.
Pictures are taken at the Washington monument, Lincoln
Memorial, National Mall, Arlington National Cemetery at the
grave site of JFK.

He wanders into a gift shop and buys a stuffed animal and
keychain for the kids.

In the nation's capital, it's the first expression of
contentment since his arrival in America.
LINH and female members of her family are dressed in ao dai
for HONG's wedding. The boys are dressed in full suits.
They are seated facing the buddha statue.

HONG and HUNG kneel in front of large Buddha statue, incense
in hand for prayer. They insert incense into the holder and
kneel back down to bow three times.

Gongs chime three times in unison to their bows.
Marriage is a big step in
responsibility. You are no longer
just acting for yourself. You are
no longer just speaking for


                       MONK (cont'd)
yourself. So you must be
respectful to one another, even
when, and especially when, you
disagree. Because a man and woman
will most certainly disagree.
MONK smiles at them, as HONG and HUNG bow in agreement. MONK
continues with Buddhist chants.

At the end of wedding ceremony, family members come up to
also burn an incense in support of the marriage.
Tea ceremony for the couple. Both mothers and grandmothers
are seated to receive their tea and offer red envelopes.

DAO and KIET are next, with a baby in DAO's arms.

The mood is light and cheerful as a wedding day should be,
the future seems brighter than it has in quite some time.
HONG and HUNG are in front of receiving line at their
wedding reception. The restaurant is fully decorated with
flowers and the mood is very festive. A three person band
plays Vietnamese music in the background.
      (seated at table)
I'm really happy for them, and
that they can have a nice
Yes, the political tensions have
eased a little. Business and
commerce is looking up a bit.
I hope that means our fathers can
come home soon.
DAO looks on as the restaurant fills up and food is being
served. Men are standing to clink their glasses with
chopsticks to demand a kiss for the bride from her new


HONG has changed into a Chinese style gown to cut her cake.
She and HUNG are being guided to cut the first piece
together and serve one another as the guests cheer on.
                       BAND LEADER
And now Ladies and Gentlemen, the
happy couple will take their first
dance as husband and wife.
Everyone cheers as they start a slow rumba on the dance

LINH dances with a young man who's parents are seated with
her mother. The parents are obviously talking about them.
Do you think they are making our
wedding plans?
Don't be absurd, that is not
happening anytime soon.
TRUNG looks perplexed as though he's been rejected, but
chooses not to ask anything during a happy occasion.
LINH rides a scooter along the streets of Saigon, dressed in
white aodai. Now a junior in high school, she is slim and
taller than her sisters, with the olive complexion of her

She arrives at school, students are outside comparing notes
and congratulating one another. Male teacher walking
towards the gates waves as she walks by. TRUNG is waiting
for her, instantly she breaks into a swift walk.
You're early, your tests must have
gone well.
I think so, mother is expecting a
celebration. She's already done
this three other times, don't know
why she's so anxious about it.


Your sisters' scores hardly count,
they got married as soon as they
were done with school! But you
are the prodigal son!
They walk together into school as classes begin.
FATHER walks out of the prison gates as the family awaits.
His clothing hangs on his thin shape but he is smiling. He
embraces them and cries in their arms.
Good to have you back Anh.
Thank you for getting me out, I'm
sure it took a lot of influence
with the right people. A lot of
good people are still in there.
Their time will come, tensions are
easing a bit.
      (Looks at Mother)
I'm sure it's a different time.
We've managed.
They drive home slowly so FATHER can take everything in.
Freedom is sweet, but now what?
FATHER comes into the living room after a shower. He looks
around a very different and less vibrant home.
You did a fine job of keeping
everything together. All I
thought about was how you needed
to survive without me.


We got by, that's all, it's been
difficult to do much more than
It's the way they like it. Better
to stay safe and not make waves.
FATHER sits at round table with three other men in casual
dress pants and button down shirts.
I want to thank you all, for
looking after my family.
                       MR. DOAN
You would have done the same for
any of us.
You're right certainly. It was a
long 10 years. My kids are grown,
my company is decimated, I need to
jump back in.
                       MR. LAM
We've been struggling too. I've
been letting my son-in-law handle
things so I can stay off radar.
Not an ideal situation.
With the embargo, my business has
nowhere to go. I need to revisit
the old contracts, see where I can
dig up some business. Let them
know I'm back.
Everyone looks on, unsure.
LINH and THIEN are helping to load boxes into a UHaul moving

FATHER has a spring in his step as he gets into the driver's


      (To Tuan)
Monterey is just few hours away,
so I expect you to visit.
We will, but I can't believe
you're going there to be
Your father had a good opportunity
to get in on a fishing fleet. He
has to be near the work.

And remember, you kids have 2
weeks to move out of this house so
we can get the deposit back.
HONG & VU nod in unison and hugs everyone.

FATHER and THIEN pull out of the driveway as MOTHER and LINH
follow in their car.
I'm a bit perplexed your Father
would invest his money in a
fishing boat fleet.
He just needed to own something I
guess. I hope it works out, for
Mother's sake.
All 3 walk inside, heads down and sad from the goodbyes.
LINH, THIEN, and MOTHER watch as FATHER waves from onboard a
100 foot fishing boat leaving the docks for a full day of
fishing at sea.
So happy to have everyone come
visit today. We haven't seen them
since we left the city.
Yes, and we can give them all the
fish and seafood we have.


Please, we've only been here for 2
months and I cannot eat another
fish or squid.
Large single-story 3 bedroom home at the end of a
cul-de-sac. The size of the lot only serves to highlight
all the dry grass in the big empty front and back yards.
Neighboring homes are similar, some with better kept yards
and fences.

Family is gathered at small dinner table. DAO is holding a
baby, HONG is visibly pregnant.
This house is really big for what
you pay in rent compared to LA.
Yes, cheap to live where there's
nothing else around.
How is working at the cannery
      (showing her red
       blistered hands)
My hands can tell you that story.
Hey, how about we hear something
you've learned on the piano.
Sure, I can practice for lessons
She is very busy these days with
extra activities.
Nobody signed me up for any
Oh, did you want ballet or piano


No thanks!
Everyone laughs at his mocked jealousy.
      (Bundling her kids)
It's going to be cold and bumpy.
I'd really rather you didn't go.
You worry too much, I do this
everyday and I make it ok.
You've gotten used to it, the sea
can be very rough for them.
      (Hands them
It's an adventure. Here, take
these and you'll be fine.
LINH and THIEN take the anti-nauseau pills as they're told,
hug their MOTHER and get on the boat.

Boat slowly leaves the dock.
LINH and THIEN are seated in the kitchen area playing cards.
They watch through the porthole as the boat bounces up and
down on the way out to sea.
You kids doing ok?


Boat ride continues for several more hours until they reach
their destination. The crew is busy pulling up fishing nets
filled with all kinds of fish.
LINH & THIEN are taking turns vomiting into buckets. A
deckhand comes in to check on them and offers washcloths.
They lay down immediately after vomiting.
Their FATHER and crew are busy on deck with their work.
Boat comes into dock and MOTHER is racing to get on but
FATHER waves her off.
      (Shouts to her)
I'll get them off, let us dock
MOTHER is impatient, she senses the children are not well
when they're not on deck waiting to see her.
Once the boat is in the slip, FATHER carries LINH out of the
cabin to the dock. MOTHER runs ahead to open the car door.
He slides her in and goes back for THIEN.
      (Trying to smile)
It was fun Mother.
Never again, never again will you
three talk me into letting you get
on that boat!
LINH's agreement confirms the rough day they had, and MOTHER
could not lecture them anymore.
MOTHER proceeds to take them home as FATHER deals with the
load on the boat.
What did we bring in today?


They haven't given us a price for
the catch. Says they got a better
deal from someone else.
A better deal? They're squeezing
us, you have to negotiate. They're
I'll try, I don't know if they
I'll bring my daughter down here
to talk to them if they need
someone to understand. She talks
like the wind, like she's American
Crewman nods.
Lights are dimmed as a group of young ballerinas are on
stage performing.

LINH is wearing a bright yellow and black striped leotard
and yellow tutu dancing like a bumble bee. She is not
slight as a ballerina should be.
MOTHER is taking pictures in the audience like every other
parent. THIEN is bored.
At the same time, FATHER's boat is deep at sea in stormy
weather. The 10 person crew are all on the top deck,
helping to pull in the fishing nets. They struggle with a
large heavy load, unable to pull it up as usual. As each
peer over the rails, a still living dolphin comes into view.

The crew immediately move to cut the nets to free the
dolphin. FATHER can only stare at this inhumane act. He is
in shock at the beautiful and fragile animal, hurting from
captivity and bite sores from other mammals.

The dolphin is released from the nets at the very moment the
sun sets on the horizon, and with the day's catch falling


back into sea with it, FATHER felt the beginning of the end
for him in this journey.
FATHER and crew are huddled dockside, the mood is somber as
another crew member approaches shaking his head. FATHER
slams his right hand into his left palm in anger, spins and
strides towards the ocean railing with anger, leaving his
crew behind.

The crew doesn't know what else to do but disperse, leaving
FATHER to work it through for himself.
FATHER walks in after the dreadful day at sea, looking very
MOTHER is ready to show him a Polaroid form the recital but
stops when she sees the look on his face.
What's going on?
We can't do this anymore.
Do what? Are you up to your old
No, nothing like that. I have no
mind for that now. I mean, we
have to get out of fishing.
I do wish we never got into it,
but you insisted on owning
something and running your own
Today I saw a beautiful dolphin
get caught up in our nets, and
when we pulled it up, birds were
just pecking at his flesh. It
made me sick.
MOTHER looks horrified.


It's not the Buddhist way, I don't
think I should be killing for a
That's melodramatic, we have to
eat, there's no sin in killing for
I know, it just can't be me. And
the buyers, they've been driving
down the price for our catch. They
know we have nowhere else to sell
it. It's just too hard.
What do we do now? We sunk all
the money in this fleet.
LINH & THIEN are carrying boxes into another UHaul truck.
FATHER is much less enthused than the move here, moving
purposefully to get the task done, but looking defeated.

He goes back into the house for one last look. As he takes
the last step out the front door, he bends down to find a
part of a fishing hook stuck to the bottom of his shoe. He
pulls it out and throws it with all his might, getting rid
of any trace of this monumental mistake.

They get on the road, car following the UHaul again, headed
to Los Angeles to start over yet again.
DAO greets everyone at the apartment door.
You look well.
Thank you Father, we are happy to
see you.


Is the moving van ok out there?
It's pretty big.
I can move it around back, it will
be safe inside the gates.
      (Shakes Kiet's
Thank you Kiet. Now where is the
little guy?
Baby KIEN comes running out from the room. He is jumpy and
happy and everyone dotes on him.
Large facility in the suburbs south of Los Angeles. FATHER
exits the plant, wearing blue jeans and t-shirt, carrying an
igloo lunch cooler. His position is obviously blue collar.
Hourly employee with good benefits and overtime. He waves
to others entering for the night shift.

He drives along surface streets to a suburban neighborhood
of single family homes. He pulls into the driveway of a
duplex and parks in front of the back unit.
2 bedroom older duplex. Once inside the front entry, have
direct line of sight to kitchen and the 2 bedroom and
bathroom doors. Not a lot of square footage.

LINH, 15 years old now, is home from school, standing in
wait for her Father. At precisely 3:30PM, Father's car pulls
Chao Father.
Anything in the mail today?
Just the electric bill. I've
written the check for your


Good, anything else I need to know
No Father, I have work today.
Shift ends at 9.
Good, see you later then.
THIEN comes in from a delivery. LINH is ringing up an order
at the front register.
My friends are picking me up after
work, you ok to get home with my
Uh, ok, if you're good with me
driving without a license.
You'll make a few blocks. You've
been driving for months.
      (A little
Yeah, ok. But try not to step on
my head again when you sneak back
At the end of her shift she gets into a beat-up Toyota
Corolla and drives the few blocks home.
LINH and family are touring a 3 bedroom house, with 2 other
      (handing out
This house was built in the
1950's, still has some old school
charm with these built-ins.


It's a single story home, with brown shaggy carpeting,
orange vinyl banquette eating area, 2 car remote control
garage, and a large backyard with overgrown trees and uneven
The asking price is $125,000.
My parents said we'll let you
Don't wait too long, I expect to
have offers after this weekend's
open house.
We'll let you know.
Family gathered for dinner.
So, we are decided on the house?
Well, it's a bit of jungle out
back. And the carpets are ugly.
Well, you can tell the realtor
that when we make an offer. Tell
her we need to redo the front and
back yards, paint, and re-carpet.
Me? Is she gonna listen to a me?
She will if we're in the room,
you're just speaking for us.
Everything will be on paper.
Can we really afford it?
Well, that's my next question. How
much are you both chipping in for
your house?


How much?
Well, you've been working for some
time now. We've always said we'd
buy a house. You have to help.
You mean with my savings?
Yes, I think you both have a good
amount put away.
I guess $2000 for me.
      (Less than
Me too, I guess.
Good, we have the 20% down if they
accept our offer.
Moving day, UHaul parked in driveway of new home. Neighbors
come by to welcome them.

New buddha and elder shrine is set-up in living room.

LINH and family perform a blessing ceremony.
Thank you buddha for the good
fortune you've placed on us. We
are grateful for our jobs that
helped us buy our first home.
Everyone bows in unison and places incense in the urn.
LINH is standing in garage with FATHER and THIEN in front of
a grey Mercedes Benz sedan.


      (Whispers to her
Can we afford this?
Doesn't matter, it's what he
That's what I mean, why does he
want it? Who's he trying to
Everyone who knows us.
Everyone who knows us will
probably think it's a bit much.
Not to him. It's important to
him, he needs it.
THIEN continues to polish car, FATHER gets in the front seat
and glides his hand across the leather seats. He looks
LINH's high school graduation. Her parents are front row in
the auditorium. After the ceremony, they exit to the front
of the school.
I'm so excited to go to the
I don't understand why you are
more excited about going to
university than planning our
What am I supposed to do when
you're working with your father,
sit around waiting for you?


Wives have plenty to do, charity
work and taking care of the
children and our home, isn't that
No frankly, it's not enough. You
should know me by now.
LINH turns from him to her family, not wanting to continue
the conversation, leaving TRUNG stunned.
Linh is engaging in a lively discussion in her business
class. Afterwards, a small group meet up at a local coffee
house to further discuss their class.
LINH is professionally dressed in a skirt suit, working hard
at a side desk in her father's much smaller office. She is
in front of a typewriter, reviewing notes on a notepad. An
assistant comes in to bring her a file, she accepts it

FATHER walks by with a visitor, looks at her proudly before
continuing on.
LINH walks into TRUNG waiting in the living room.
Anh, what are you doing here?
I know we didn't have plans
tonight. I need to talk to you.
Yeah, sorry, I was at the office
late. I didn't know you were
waiting. And I have to study now.
It's fine, I know. I needed the
time waiting.


Long pause as neither speaks.
My mother, she doesn't think we
should continue. She thinks you
are not faithful to me.
LINH shocked but not wavering.
I don't mean faithful like with
somebody else, I mean devoted to
me. She thinks you want your
education and the company more
than me.
Well that's ridiculous, but why
can't I want it all? You know
I've had to jump in. I need to
help my family's business.
I think you made a choice to be
there. You wanted to be there
from the start, and you don't want
to back-out now.
I can't and I won't. Not for you
and not for your mother. For you
to even ask is insensitive to my
I want this, but I don't think you
want it the same way. I can't be
second choice.
      (Agreeing with him)
You're right.
You are good with ending this?
I am good with the path that I'm
on. If you're good with it, then
we can be on the same path
together. If you can't, I
understand. It's pretty simple to


LINH turns to leave the room leaving TRUNG stunned that she
would end it so easily. He eventually gets up and walks
MOTHER knocks on door.
      (Putting book
Come in.
      (Sits at her bed.)
I saw Trung leave.
I think it's done Mother.
He's not wrong for wanting what he
Not wrong, just not for me.
I thought I was coming in to
console you, but it seems maybe
he's the only sad one.
I am sad. But I'm also relieved
that I'm seeing this side of him
now. I'm really disappointed that
he has such low expectations for
Don't blame him, it's all he
knows. He grew up with 3 sisters
who all took the same traditional
path. Again, nothing wrong with
Not wrong, just more of the same.
I don't want to be irrelevant.


You, not relevant?, that's not
even possible. But, it will be a
challenge for any man.
      (Looking at her
       mother for
That's "his" problem.
LINH in her bedroom with a telephone company man. She
appears self-assured and independent, she clearly owns her
space. She paid-for and decorated her room with mod black
lacquer furniture and covered the ugly brown wood cabinets
with black and white contact paper. Her personal style is
new wave, wearing her favorite purple washed jeans and black
tshirt. If she were allowed to color her hair, it would
probably match her outfit. Instead, it's just big and high,
held together by the Aqua Net hairspray on the vanity.
What's going on?
I'm getting my own phone line.
Why? What's wrong with the other
Nothing except Father hangs up on
all my friends.
It's cause he doesn't understand.
Not hard to understand if someone
says my name.
Agreed. But, he's never gonna


Exactly, that's why I gotta change
the way I get my messages.
I guess he can't object if you're
paying for it.
LINH in tight ripped white jeans, striped top and 20
black bangles on her wrist. Her hair is even bigger than it
is during the day, eyes dark and smokey and glossy lips.

She is approaching friends waiting in line to get into a
dance club in Hollywood.
Hey, sorry I'm late. Always
traffic in Hollywood.
Yeah, we carpooled. It's a bitch
to drive in LA.
They get up to the front of the line and show IDs to get in.
They get wrist bands for under 21. New wave music is
blaring and lights flashing.
      (Showing wristband)
Scarlet Letter haha.
Yeah, it stands for don't approach
me, I'm barely legal.
Won't stop me from snagging a
drink from somebody! I hope your
brother's friends are here, they
always cover us.
Who cares about snagging drinks.
Says the non-drinker!
LINH is approached by a man she recognizes.


Hey, how long has it been?
      (acting coy)
Excuse me, do I know you??
Now that's the sarcastic wit I
My birthday, we danced all night,
sound familiar?
      (Raising hands as
       though innocent)
Right, sweet sixteen, no wonder
I've stayed away. Danger zone.
Hmmmm, why would that be a
JUSTIN pulls her to the dance floor as her friends look on.

They stay together the whole night, LINH never returning to
her friends. JUSTIN is attentive and affectionate, never
pressing boundaries. He introduces LINH to his gang of
guys, and leaves them to drink without him, only paying
attention to her until her friends swoop her away at nearly
1am to grab a bite to eat.
LINH and her group of friends are eating and laughing.
JUSTIN and his group at the same restaurant, he eyes her
occasionally but gives her space knowing they will have
their time.
Oh my god, did you see that guy
falling over himself trying to
dance? He was so wasted.
He was entertaining. But I was a
little busy tonight.


      (Eyeing Justin at
       other table)
I'll say... What did he say to
What could he say, I mean, I'm in
high school!
Is he gonna call you?
Well, he has my private number now
so I'll be sure to get his call.
Anyway, I'm too tired to talk
about it. I have to work
Too bad for you! I'm sleeping in!
My parents keep wanting me to get
a job but I'm still in high
Don't rub it in! I am paying my
own way through life!
Well, it's workin' for you. Snazzy
car, new gear every week, loads of
pocket cash.
Work hard, play hard girl!
LINH is sitting in her car, car clock reads 4:00AM. She is
waiting to see the bathroom light come on, signaling her
FATHER is in the bathroom getting ready for work.
Once the light comes on, she enters through the side of the
house and sneaks to her bedroom as she hears the shower
running, and so her FATHER never hears her.
It's lunchtime, students are scattered across campus eating
on the grass, benches, and in the cafeteria.


LINH is walking briskly off campus in Guess jeans and
jacket, towards her car, waving to friends but not stopping
to chat.
      (Catching up to
Linh, let me ask you something.
      (Turns and walking
Hey Brian, what's up?
So prom, there's a group of us
going you know?
Yeah, yeah, I heard. A few of you
getting rooms there?, sounds like
an all-nighter.
It's our senior prom after all.
Was wondering if you would go with
Me, really? I mean, you've been
with Shelly most of the year
right? We barely hang out.
Who do you hang out with? 1st
period and gone by lunch, no
socializing with high schoolers?
Come to prom with me atleast.
      (Avoiding question)
I gotta jet, had a late night and
gotta study before work. I'll
think about it ok?, maybe going
with the group might be fun.
We're getting a limo, I'll save
room for you.
      (Walks further
Cool, I'll chip in for the ride


                       LINH (cont'd)
and prom bids.
BRIAN turns back to campus, a little disappointed.
LINH rushes home from school, grabs her overnight bag, waves
to her parents as she runs out the door.
I'll be at Chi Dao's house.
      (Stopping her)
Put an action movie on for me
before you go. Something with not
too much talking.
      (Smiling at his
They don't make movies with no
lines Father.
I don't like it when there's too
much talking, don't mock me.
How about Scarface for the 100th
Walks out after movie starts.
We never see her anymore, and
she's only in high school.
You said as long as her grades
were good, she could keep working.
LINH enters DAO's house as KIEN runs up to her. The
babysitter waves as she leaves.
I want McDonald's!


Did mom say you could? I'm pretty
sure she has dinner for you.
You can call her.
I'm not going to bother her at the
shop to ask if you can have fast
Then just let me.
Well, you can play in the
playground. Ok, let's go.
It is 9pm, KIEN is sleeping in his bed while LINH is reading
a textbook on her sister's bed.

DAO enters the room.
Hi Chi, you're home early.
A little, it was a slow night. How
was he?
Oh fine, he talked me into
McDonald's again.
He could live on that stuff. But
just once a while ok?
Yes, I told him you have better
food for him here, but he just
likes to play. We saw a friend
from school there and he was so
Are you going home or staying


I'm going out, my friends are
waiting for me.
Be careful, it's late. Is Thien
going to be there?
Maybe, we usually end up in the
same places but you know, he
doesn't like me hanging around
with his friends.
Just don't get me in trouble with
Father if he thinks you're staying
over here.
I won't, promise.
LINH was about to leave, but turns around.
Actually, can I borrow a dress?
To go out tonight?
No, for prom. I wasn't gonna go,
but I think I should, it's my last
Why wouldn't you want to go? It's
a rite of passage I never had. I
don't think I have anything
fitting for prom though.
Anything you have is way better
than a frilly prom dress.
Sure, take whatever you want.
      (Turns back to hug
I'll have it cleaned, I promise.


Walks straight to DAO's closet to pick a dress.
Married with Children is on the television.

LINH is recording a mix tape on her sound system. She sways
and sings along to pop and new wave songs as she checks the
sound quality of her recording, Duran Duran's Save a Prayer,
Depeche Mode's Just Can't Get Enough and Strangelove,
Madonna's Dress You Up and Holiday.

She writes on a notecard- Anh Justin, Please go to prom
with me so we can dance all night! Love, Em Linh.

She inserts notecard and mix tape in envelope and addresses
it to JUSTIN's apartment.
LINH enters ballroom with a group of 8 friends, dressed in
knee length red suede dress and embellished jacket. She is
not wearing a "prom dress" or corsage like other girls in
the group.
They pose for a photo under the caption- Reach for the
Stars. They all reach up as high as they can and ultimately
jump just before the photo flashes.
They descend into the ballroom and take their seats at
Are you gonna stay through the
I wasn't planning on it. I think
tonight with everyone is plenty.
You are the most popular high
school girl who was never at high
What do you mean? I'm at school.
You make an appearance from 7-12.


It's enough to get me into
Hey, if I had a mystery man in
college and work that keeps me in
those clothes and loads of cash in
those handbags you carry, I'd blow
off high school too.
Don't hate the player girl. I'm
lucky to get nice hand me downs
from my fashionable sisters. But
seriously, you guys have no idea
what my life is like.
Well whatever it is, it makes high
school prom seem very boring.
Noo, this is cool, really. I wish
my guy would have come tonite, I
practically begged him.
The party continues as LINH dances with different groups of
friends. She declines slow dances with several friends,
preferring to watch this rite of passage.
LINH's high school graduation. Her parents are proudly in
the bleachers with all her siblings, balloons and flowers in

LINH runs up to them after the ceremony hugging everybody.
School isn't over for you little
Yeah, but High School is so over!
Family photos are taken with different groups, then LINH
strips off her cap & gown, and hands everything to her
family before running off to grad night.

JUSTIN is waiting for her at the side of the bleachers.


I can't believe you're here!
You call and I come running.
They embrace for a long while as friends pass by. They
proceed to the school bus lines to go to grad night, LINH is
beaming with pride with Justin by her side.
So he does exist.
Haha, I told you there was a
college man in my life.
LINH snuggles with JUSTIN on the ride to the theme park. He
publicly adores her which further confirms her feelings and
erases any doubt that he's embarrassed to be with someone
her age.

They disembark the bus at Disneyland and go off on their
own. Not loving roller coasters, LINH prefers the slow
whimsical rides so she can just be next to him and wrapped
in his arms. By midnight, the air is chilly enough for hot
chocolate and churros. As they sit in front of the princess
castle for the special fireworks display in honor of the
graduates, LINH is feeling very grown-up in spite of the
fantasy surroundings.
Why aren't you with any friends?
Really, you don't want to hang-out
with high schoolers all night.
You're fourth year, in college! I
don't want to remind you of my age
I like your age, and I remember
what high school was like, I'm not
that old! (He pinches Linh
They enjoy rides the rest of the night, without any other


LINH & JUSTIN get back on the bus to return to the school
parking lot. They walk to his car and drive a short
distance to the nearest IHOP. They wait in line for a table
as friends wave to LINH.
It's kinda surreal to be done with
high school right? Did you feel
this way?
I think mentally, you've been out
of high school for a long time.
Yeah, I've barely been on campus
the last 2 years. I'm surprised
people even remember. They were
surprised to see me at prom when
you didn't want to go.
I told you I'd be here for your
graduation. Prom is a right of
passage you should have with your
Yeah, it was fine. We did have a
lot of fun as a group, but like,
after prom, why?? You know?
Well, after prom might have been
interesting. If there was a hotel
room involved. But I can see you
weren't into it with your friends.
      (Long pause and
       looks at Justin
Exactly, not my scene at all. I
bailed. So, what about us though?
What about us?
I think I'm ready. I mean, you
know I love you. But I think you
think it's like puppy love or


                       LINH (cont'd)
No, I don't mean to make you feel
like that. I do not think you're
a child. You're the most mature
seventeen year old I've ever
known. Myself included.
      (Looking serious)
Again, I'm ready.
Ok, look, it's too early in the
morning after a sleepless night to
be talking about this. But I
promise to think about it.
Welcome students to USC's orientation for incoming Freshman.
We hope you'll find this weekend informative and eventful.
We have a very packed schedule, intended to give you a real
flavor of our university and campus life. School starts in
a few short weeks. Welcome to USC!

LINH exits the hall with a few new friends. They walk back
to the dorms to unpack for the weekend.
So do you think you're gonna RUSH
for a sorority?
No time, I'm not living on or off
campus. I'll be commuting and
Oh wow, that's tough.
      (Accepting of her
Story of my life!


LINH and JUSTIN enter room holding hands. LINH turns to
embrace him.
I hope you won't be disappointed.
      (stroking her hair)
No way, we'll go at your pace. It
may be your 18th birthday, but I
feel like I'm getting the gift.
Like, I can't believe you've
waited for me.
You know it's not the age thing. I
wanted you to be sure. I wanted
you to pursue it, then I'd know
you were ready.
They start to kiss and he slowly unbuttons her dress and
lets it fall to the floor. JUSTIN picks her up and gently
puts her on the bed. He climbs over her and deeply kisses
her, moving his hands up and down her body, caressing her
breast. She moans with excitement.
LINH is sleeping in dimly lit room with closed shades.
JUSTIN comes in the door.
Good morning sunshine. Did you
sleep ok?
      (looks at him
I did. How are you feeling?
      (smiling coyly)
Well, when I woke up next to you
this morning, I was pretty happy.


Oh my god, I was so nervous. Like,
I thought you would bail cause it
was so bad for you.
Stop, it was not bad. It was
gentle and sweet and perfect for
your first time. I really wanted
it to be for you.
And it was, but was it for you
      (pinching her nose
       and hands her
It definitely was. I have no
LINH and family are at an upscale Japanese restaurant,
waiting for another family.
      (To Thien)
Why am I meeting this guy?
You object to an arranged
Object is not a strong enough
Just then, a couple enters who recognize her parents,
followed by their three children. The son is dressed very
conservatively in a dark blue sport coat and ascot.
Introductions are made.
                       MR. PHAM
It's been too long, how have you
both been?
Very well, I hear you are still in
the hotel business?


                       MRS. PHAM
Yes, it seems we couldn't get away
from it, even once we got here.
It worked out well for you.
                       MR. PHAM
We can't complain. Have you been
in touch with anyone from the old
Yes, yes, we often get together.
Binh, Nhi, they are all still in
the Bay Area.
                       MR. PHAM
Please send them my regards, and
contact me if ever they are in
I'm sure they would be thrilled to
catch up with you. Shall we
Would you like something to drink?
      (Analyzing him)
Just some tea please.
No wine, beer, sake?
I don't drink. But please, go
You ladies in for some sake?
Sounds good, will go nicely with
dinner I think.
Dinner continues cordially. They talk about school and
majors. The parents reminisce about the old days. When the
check arrives, the fathers fight over the bill, but Mr. Pham
wins out.


      (As they leave)
It was very nice to meet you all.
Do call us if you're around
Westwood. Perhaps we can see a
movie or have dinner.
Yes, the pleasure is all mine. Do
you mind if I call?
Sure, your parents have our
number. Good night.
      (Secretly to Linh)
Why didn't you give him your bat
phone number?
You saw the ascot right? Uptight
What's wrong with conservative?
He's already running the family
Nothing wrong with it, just not my
Oh, you have a type. Does Father
know that?
What he doesn't know won't hurt
him. I just don't want to marry
someone like my father.
Ouch, that hurts.
You know I love him, but he's
super old school and I would kill
a man like that.


I don't doubt it!
Family meeting in the living room.
We want you guys to start planning
a life without us.
What do you mean, who's sick?
No, no, nothing like that. What
he means to say is, we do not plan
to live out our retirement here,
in America.
What do you mean, it's America.
Where is better than here?
It is better for you, for sure. I
need to go back, to where the
streets and sounds and language
are familiar to me.
You mean you're leaving us? Like,
on our own.
We know you can handle it, we
wouldn't leave you otherwise.
You'll have the house that you
both have invested in. You'll
have your work.
Anh Thien has work, I am trying to
get through school. And how am I
supposed to go to grad school? Or
does that not matter to anyone?
      (holding back his
It's not happening right away, but
I'm planning my retirement. We
just want you to start preparing


                       FATHER (cont'd)
for life here without us.
LINH suddenly realizes something.
So that's why you're trying to
marry me off!
It wouldn't kill you to meet a
nice young man.
You know that can't happen by you
forcing it.
It's not the worst thing in the
world to have respectable families
come together thru marriage.

I just want to be sure you're ok
when we leave.
Don't reject the idea just because
it came from us. He was nice
Did he have a good enough resume
for you? Was it as stiff as he
Watch it girl, you are borderline
right now.
LINH exits before she can get into any more trouble.
LINH and JUSTIN are at the ticket counter.

They show their passports and tickets to get through
Security. They take seats at the bar near their gate. JUSTIN
orders a beer.


10 days in Europe with you, best
graduation gift to myself ever!
I'm glad you talked me into
splurging, I haven't taken a
time-out since I started working.
Can't wait for wealth to start
living your life.
      (Eyeing Linh
Gotta admit, I'm pretty stoked.
Are you sure you're good with
leaving, given how things are at
Yeah. In attitude, he and I are
too much alike, in outlook, we
couldn't be more different.
Hmmm, sounds like a challenge for
me either way.
I mean, who doesn't like money??
It just shouldn't define
who you are. Having it and
showing he had it became overly
important to him. I'm just not
good with that.
You have to look at it from his
perspective. It's hard to have it
in excess and lose it all, with no
means of getting it back. That's
rough on a man.
Justin pauses to gage her reaction.


He just wanted the best for you.
Who knows, that guy could have
been the one, you just didn't give
it a chance.
LINH practically knocks him over jokingly.
Yeah, I let that one get away.
Look, there's nothing wrong with
money. It may not buy happiness,
but it sure as hell staves off
They both laugh at his analogy.
You're right, I'm gonna respect
his way of thinking, I'll just
side-step carefully.
Justin smiles at her maturity.
      (resting her head
       on his shoulder)
You gotta help me stay in the
moment and not stress about the
rest of my life.
      (Kissing her
I have a few ideas in mind...
                       LINH (V.O)
In the end, it's all about the
choices that will define who you


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