by Dr. Laura Wilhelm, LauraWil Intercultural

Bố Già (Dad, I’m Sorry) has become the #1 box office hit of all time in Vietnam and is the first Vietnamese film to break $1M at the U.S. box office.  It is Vietnam’s contender for the 2022 Oscars in the category of Best International Feature Film.

Along with a bratty little boy who is losing his pants the film carries us into the soul of small-alley Saigon life through Ba Sang, a beleaguered patriarch played by Vietnamese-Chinese comedy superstar Trấn Thành.  Ba Sang braves day-to-day family dysfunction to preserve a tenuous peace between his bullying siblings and pretty boy YouTuber son Woan (Tuấn Trần).

Woan conceives an ambitious plan to move his father into a luxury apartment.  “You will be my season in the sun!” he says. 

But storm clouds immediately appear in the form of their relatives.  And soon Ba Sang returns to his old life in the alley to begin a downward spiral involving family secrets and a severe health crisis.  In the end his alienated son is able to save the day!

In a film so full of loud and contentious characters, the quiet moments resonate the most.  Tender scenes with bicycle rides and bubbles and tables set with tasty-looking meals suggest the underlying ties that bind this ragtag brood together.

While the specifics of Asian culture depicted in the film may elude non-Asian viewers, most will relate to the intergenerational tensions that transcend their Third World setting.  The same Information Age opportunities that may allow this low-income family to advance economically are certain to keep causing frictions amongst its members.

Ba Sang’s torturous journey to self-assertion ultimately endears him to us.  And the “one big family” that forms in his Saigon alley comes to seem quite familiar!

This little film’s big box office success has been bolstered by local Vietnamese communities across the country in areas such as Orange County, San Jose, Seattle, Houston, Atlanta, and Orlando.  It was based upon a five-episode web drama that garnered over 90 million followers.  All of these numbers are encouraging for Vietnamese films and, indeed, all independent and international films!

Bố Già is directed by star Trấn Thành and Vu Ngoc Dang. It is distributed by 3388 Films with a running time of 128 minutes.