Saturday, April 30, 2011

Vietnam TV

Last week I was out in Ubon Ratchatani, close to the Lao border. It's a pretty cosmopolitan place, with substantial communities of Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese people. On the cable there were two Vietnamese channels (that could be every one of them, I couldn't tell you).

Vietnam One is the government channel, and Vietnam Three is entertainment. Over on the government side, it's all very serious. Lots of documentaries about the war, heavy on the tanks entering Saigon. Serious news about new dams and successful factories. VN3 is very colorful and lighthearted, with travelogues and variety shows.

Then I flipped past VN1 and they were showing the American movie, "Mississippi's Burning," with Willem Defoe and Gene Hackman, in its entirety. You could hear the soundtrack, and there was a voice over that was not a dub, it seemed like someone was describing the proceedings. Why would they be showing this movie, in this way?

Sure it's a movie about an American problem, racism, but it's also a powerful expression of America's moral dilemma in wrestling with the problem, rendering it a generally sympathetic picture of America.

I take it as one more indication that the Vietnamese communists, and the people too, want to move on from the old animosities and form a new relationship with America. It's all pragmatic, based in pure economics. Certainly, Americans who travel in Vietnam are not subjected to any animosity at all. At the personal level, it's all: may I practice my English? Thanks for coming! Thanks for shopping! For the government, it's all: bygones can be bygones, let's do business!

These are good things, and Washington should listen more closely.

No comments: