Song, Sound, and Refugee Affect 

In Life of a Flower and Song Lang


This chapter seeks to upend global media’s vast archive of Vietnamese refugees, an archive that has mostly captured images of refugees fleeing in fear and cowering en masse. Turning away from this archive and the savior narrative underlying it, I look to a different archive altogether—Vietnamese fictional films that narrate refugee movement within a highly melodramatic register, one marked by an exaltation of sound, color, and emotion. Kiếp Hoa [Life of a Flower](1953) and Song Lang (2018), I argue, offer a baroque window onto which the landscape of migration is studded with deeply felt sentiments of exile and loss. I bring these films together, as both reverberate with refugee affect, born of a historically situated sense of displacement and grounded in one of the most popular theatrical genres in Việt Nam–the cải lương opera.

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