‘Bolinao 52′ in OC today

The refugee boat left Vietnam with 110 people, but after being stranded at sea, only 52 lived to land in the Phillipines. The horrific journey lasted 37 days and people on the boat had to resort to cannibalism to survive.

The Bolsavik has written about the documentary film “Bolinao 52″ before. Like, here. In Bolinao 52, filmmaker Duc Nguyen chronicles the horrors that one woman lived through, and witnesses her return to the island town of Bolinao to seek peace and honor the dead. Nguyen also briefly examines the controversy over the decision to court-martial the captain of the U.S. war ship that gave the refugees food, water and directions, but did not pick them up.

At 1pm today, the film will screen in a program entitled “Bolinao 52: Remembrance, Reconciliation & Healing” at Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. Duc Nguyen will be there to talk with the audience, together with other panelists.

Following the jump are more details and the film’s trailer.


$15 General Public
(Regular ticket price may go towards Bowers Museum Annual Membership fees. Support the ARTS, become a MEMBER!)
$12 Museum Members
(Early ticket purchase recommended as this event will likely sell out fast!)

Tickets available online via: www.bowers.org or at museum box office.

Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, millions of refugees took the perilous voyage across the South China Sea to find freedom. Many died of drowning, starvation and thirst. Some were lost at sea for days while others were pillaged and raped by pirates. More than thirty years later, filmmaker Duc Nguyen, himself a boat refugee, retraces the odyssey of the Bolinao 52 – and reveals an incredible tale of survival, reconciliation and closure.

One hundred and ten refugees boarded a crowded boat one night in May 1988. Soon after leaving Vietnam, the boat’s engine died. They were ignored by over 20 passing ships. Nineteen days later, the USS Dubuque stopped but the ship’s captain refused to pick up the dying refugees. Facing death, they resorted to cannibalism. After 37 days at sea, only 52 people survived. Finally, humble fishermen rescued them to the coastal town of Bolinao in the Philippines. This is the true story of the BOLINAO 52.

The film screening will be followed by a special recognition award presentation to former USS Morton Commander Corwin Al Bell who rescued Vietnamese boat people in 1982. The event will culminate with a discussion panel on remembrance, reconciliation and healing that welcomes audience participation. A wine reception with light refreshments will cap off the program.

The panelists include:

DUC NGUYEN, Filmmaker– As a former boat person, the making of Bolinao 52 was a personal mandate for Duc Nguyen to educate the world about the struggles of refugees. Due to the phenomenal response by international audiences to this film, especially from overseas Vietnamese viewers, he wants to use this landmark film to foster intergenerational and interdisciplinary dialogue and counseling.

MAI-PHUONG NGUYEN, MD, Associate Producer – Served as the former co-chairperson of the acclaimed student advocacy group, Project Ngoc-UC Irvine, during the peak of the boat people’s international plight against forcible repatriation back to Vietnam from 1989-91. Dr. Nguyen brings extensive social and health advocacy experience along with her clinical expertise as a physician, to discuss how this film can be used to promote healing as well as cultural competency training for healthcare professionals serving immigrant populations.

XUYEN DONG-MATSUDA, PsyD, Psychologist/Social Worker – A clinical consultant for the Orange County Asian Pacific Islanders Community Alliance with over 20 years experience serving ethnic communities, Dr. Dong-Matsuda speaks regularly on mental health issues on syndicated Vietnamese language radio and television shows. She will discuss how creative and/or community service activities help war survivors heal from their traumatic pasts to forge healthier futures.

Sponsored by:

BOLINAO 52 is a co-production of Duc Nguyen and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), produced in association with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) and KTEH Public Television, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Additional funding is provided by All Roads Film Project and Pacific Pioneer Fund.

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4 Responses to ‘Bolinao 52′ in OC today

  1. Billy Jack says:

    I’ll be there looking forward to watching the compelling movie and listening to the panelists.

  2. an oversea VN student says:

    when will the communist government in VN answer this? I wish

  3. Joe Costello says:

    I served onboard the USS Morton DD-948 under CDR Corwin A. Bell. I am now a Chief Warrant Officer in the US Army Reserve. I saw Bolinao 52 on TV the other night and was transported back to our experience in the South China Sea in 1982. Skipper Bell’s decision to pick those people up gave the entire crew a sense of pride that will last a lifetime. I am grateful that valuable lives were saved. I am grateful that leaders like CDR Bell still exist in our military. I hope all of those brave people have everything they ever dreamed of in our great nation!

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