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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Less than dust
THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY opens in rural Vietnam in 1990. A young man, Binh (Damien Nguyen), is obviously unlike his fellows. He's tall and large-boned. In fact, he's the offspring of a marriage between a Vietnamese woman and an American serviceman back during the war years. The natives have a derogatory term for such children: Bui Doi, or "Less Than Dust". Indeed, Binh is...
Published on July 8, 2005 by Joseph Haschka

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Vietnam War Reunion
Unlike other Vietnam War movies, The Beautiful Country allows the viewer to gain an understanding of the discrimination toward Amerasian children born during the Vietnam War. The journey of the movie's main character in his attempt to leave a country that did not treat him equally, and at the same time to find his American father brings the hard reality of the pain and...
Published on March 15, 2010 by Arthur Carucci


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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Less than dust, July 8, 2005
THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY opens in rural Vietnam in 1990. A young man, Binh (Damien Nguyen), is obviously unlike his fellows. He's tall and large-boned. In fact, he's the offspring of a marriage between a Vietnamese woman and an American serviceman back during the war years. The natives have a derogatory term for such children: Bui Doi, or "Less Than Dust". Indeed, Binh is ostracized even among the relatives with whom he lives - he must eat his meals outside rather than around the dining table. And, when another man marries into the family, Binh is forced from the house. Subsequently, he goes to Saigon to find his mother, Mai (Thi Kim Xuan), who works as a housekeeper in the home of an arrogantly rich family, the son of which has fathered a young boy by Mai, Tam (Dang Quoc Thinh Tran).

For a brief period, Binh works for his mother's employer. Then, a tragic accident forces Mai to compel her son to flee aboard a refugee boat with all her savings, Tam, and the Texas address (from their marriage license) of her American husband, Steve, whom she hasn't seen since he abruptly disappeared decades before. The two eventually end up in a well-intentioned, but grim, Malaysian refugee camp/prison. Here, Binh meets, and falls in love with, Ling (Ling Bai), a young singer wannabe from China. The two combine their money to escape to an offshore freighter, a veritable rust bucket, that'll ferry them (and a multitude of other unfortunates) on the final leg to the United States for a steep price up front and a signed contract for indentured servitude upon arrival. The voyage proves to be a nightmare that many don't survive. But, Binh does, and after a period working as a fast food delivery boy in the Big Apple, he sets out for the Lone Star State to find his father armed only with the address and a time-worn picture of Steve, Mai and himself taken when he was a baby.

The viewer may be forgiven for believing that THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is a Vietnamese production. In fact, it's Norwegian, with English-subtitled Vietnamese dialogue evolving to pidgin-English, then American English, as Binh's language skills steadily improve.

The lead actors are undeniably Damien Nguyen and Ling Bai, though, because of their greater familiarity to American audiences, or because it was written into their contracts, Tim Roth and Nick Nolte, both of whom have crucial but relatively small parts, will probably receive billing in the movie adverts way out of proportion to their actual on-screen time. Roth plays the coldy practical, but not completely unsympathetic, captain of the New York bound freighter with its cargo of misery, while Nolte appears as Steve.

The ending of this visually eloquent and poignant film is bittersweet almost to the point of being tragic. Yet, the viewer is sustained by the knowledge that Binh is ultimately in a better place. Indeed, because THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY is a convergence of three tragedies, i.e., the plight of the outcast Bui Doi, that of illegal aliens smuggled into the U.S., and the terrible cost of the Vietnam War on some of the American military who served in that conflict, it would be a gratuitous cop-out if the conclusion was more warm and fuzzy.

Finally, if you think "The Beautiful Country" necessarily refers to the United States, then think again. For the characters, it's a matter of personal perspective.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Keep A Good Heart" ~ A Generation In Search Of Identity, February 19, 2006
This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
The film opens with the statement: 'Bui Doi' meaning: "less than dust." The phase is used to describe the children of a Vietnamese mother and an American father. Not an uplifting beginning, but an all to true reality.

Binh (Damien Nguyen), a young man born of a Vietnamese Mother and an American solider decides to go to America in search of his Father. 'The Beautiful Country' chronicles the hardships, disappointments, losses and tragedies that occur along the way.

This is not what I would call a happy movie even though it appears Binh is successful at reaching his ultimate goal in the end. Finding what you are searching for doesn't necessarily mean everything will finally work out as you had hoped. True to its subject matter it shows the situation as it is. Many young adult Vietnamese of mixed origin are still looking for self identity and the Father that left them behind. A story that needs to be told. Ultimately you are left to wonder what 'Beautiful Country' is the title of the film refering to. Vietnam or America?

Wonderful performance by newcomer Damien Nguyen and the exotic Bai Ling, with solid performances by Nick Nolte, Tim Roth and Temuera Morrison.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeously Filmed and Strangely Unpredictable, January 4, 2007
By 
Bart King (Portland, Oregon) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY employs a Norwegian director, a half-Filipino writer, and a primarily Chinese and Vietnamese cast to paint its picture of a man's search for self-resolve and his father. As the offspring of a G.I. and a Vietnamese beauty, Binh (exquisitely portrayed by first-timer Damien Nguyen) is oversized and ostracized in his native land.

The plot of this movie is like a Chinese dhow tacking into a wind that keeps changing direction; if you have the patience to watch, its progress is both slow and unpredictable. As Binh progresses on his path, he graduates from fatalistic survival mode to self confidence. And along the way, Binh makes the acquaintance of Tim Roth as the memorable and morally devoid captain of a rusting scow filled with human cargo. (Where has Roth been? This film is a reminder that he's been MIA too long.)

SIDELIGHT: Screenwriter Sabina Murray worked with auteur Terrence Malick (THE THIN RED LINE) on the script preparation. His contributions was to work in memorable visual scenes (of which this movie has many) and the casting of Nick Nolte playing the magnificent wreck of a man. (In other words, playing himself.)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an original approach, July 18, 2006
By 
Joseph Bernstein (Providence, RI United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
This film was very well made and cast-the direction,screenplay,acting,cinematography,and location shooting all blended harmoniously.Nick Nolte's role was small in total screen time,but not in importance.Damien Nguyen was highly effective and believeable as the protagonist even though this is apparently his first film performance.Ling Bai and Temuera Morrison are strong in supporting roles.Ling Bai is an experienced and well-known actress,but Morrison may not be a household name to most in the US-he plays the role of a menacing "snakehead" smuggler to perfection-if anyone has seen him in "Once Were Warriors"made in New Zealand it's apparent that he can play the kind of people you wouldn't want to know real well.The depiction of the alien smuggling operation and its aftermath in the USA is solid-I know from my professional experience of over 20 years as an INS agent.The film has a surprise in it-you think you know the story,but you don't.I don't put spoilers in my reviews.It's truly worth seeing.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leave it to the Norwegians, March 19, 2006
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This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
Leave it to the Norwegians (this was a Norwegian production) to produce a movie as harrowing and, at the same time, as understated as this one. The main character's courage and perseverance is really heroic. He rises to meet his challenges under unbelievably consistent bad circumstances...the stigma of being half Vietnamese/ half American, unwanted by both, constantly hanging over his head. This movie contains so many really beautiful and memorable images...and at its quiet conclusion leaves the viewer wanting the best for its characters.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What is in the heart, June 13, 2007
By 
LGwriter "SharpWitGuy" (Astoria, N.Y. United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
There is much sadness in this drama. It is a story of an outsider--in this case, a bui doi, or "less than dust". This is someone of mixed parentage, specifically, Vietnamese and American, but living in Vietnam. His name is Binh and as the film begins, we see him in search of both his parents, neither of whom he knows.

He finds his mother locally, but also finds out his father is back in America, after marrying his mother in Vietnam. The reasons for his father's abrupt departure are mysterious, which drives the story, as does Binh's meeting Ling, a Chinese woman in search of a better life who, like Binh, also travels to America.

The sadness here penetrates directly to the heart. Ling has feelings for Binh but at the same time wants a life Binh can never give her. Binh has a very young brother, Tam, who accompanies him on his journey to America, during which deep sadness overtakes the two brothers. And when Binh finally does find his father in America, it is a sad reunion for several reasons.

The soul of this story is its simplicity, which is communicated expertly by Hans Molland (director of "Zero Kelvin" and "Aberdeen") and screenwriter Sabina Murray, who supplies an interview for the DVD. The acting is straightforward and effective; included in the cast is Tim Roth and Nick Nolte, as well as a number of unknown Asian actors, and Bai Ling as Ling. Molland is an interesting director who effectively fuses man, nature, and deep emotions. In "Zero Kelvin", this combination had the frigid setting of a polar region; in "The Beautiful Country", it is the hardships of life at sea--the journey from Asia to America via freighter.

This is a great piece of cinematic work that should not be overlooked. Very highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A journey of hardship from Vietnam to search for his American father, January 20, 2007
This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
This 2004 Norwegian film begins in Vietnam in 1990. Here, we meet Binh, the gangly 20-year old son of a Vietnamese mother and American G.I. father. He looks different from his Vietnamese relatives who are raising him, and he has been taunted all his life for his awkward tallness and mixed race features. Cast out of his childhood home, he goes to the city where his mother works as a housemaid for cruel wealthy people. His American father has disappeared long ago but his mother has a marriage license that lists his father's home as Houston, Texas. His mother gets him a job at the same household where she works where both of them are treated quite badly. Because of a freak accident that will surely be blamed on Binh, he must leave Vietnam. His mother gives him her life savings and he and his young half-brother who is about 5 years old leave on a long and unpleasant trek to America.

The trip to America exposes the realities of the global traffic in human beings. After a harrowing voyage on an open boat, they finally get to a refugee camp in Malaysia which is a virtual prison. Here, he meets a beautiful young Chinese woman named Ling who sells her body for food and money. She befriends him and helps him care for his young brother. Later, she uses the money she has saved to get Binh, his brother and herself on a boat that smuggles people to America where Binh is forced to sign an agreement that will put him into virtual slavery. The voyage is awful and there is little food or water. People die. All of this is shown in excruciating detail. It is absolutely horrible and very very sad.

In America, Binh is forced to work in a Chinese restaurant, living in a barracks where he sleeps on his bed for only a limited time and then must give it up to the next man who will also use it for only a few hours of sleep. During one very moving scene, he learns from his fellow workers that since his father is an American, he is actually an American citizen and didn't have to sneak into America the way he did. He could have made an application in Vietnam and been flown here on a jet plane. I must say that I shared his joy when he learned that. Now he was free. He could leave the slavery of the kitchens.

It's a long way from New York to Texas but he is determined to find his father. He hitches rides. He does odd jobs and we all get a glimpse of America through his eyes along the way. Eventually, near the very end of the film he does find his father, played by Nick Nolte. This meeting is not what I expected and includes its own kind of pathos that pulled at my heartstrings. The film ends on a bleak but positive note. It was a satisfactory journey for both Binh and the audience.

The part of Binh is played by a young actor named Damien Nguyen, who came to America from Vietnam at the age of three and grew up in California. This is his first film which must have been a huge challenge. He is in every single scene of the movie and had to show a tremendous range of emotions. I applaud his performance as I applaud this film. It was real and serious and thought provoking. I loved it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What Cinema is Made For, December 20, 2005
By 
Stephen S. Ewen (Saipan, CNMI, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
This is a powerfully moving film that realistically portrays its subject. I will be using showing this to my students. Bravo to the director, and also to Nguyen and Nolte who gave phenomenal performances. This is the kind of film the medium was made for.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must See, May 21, 2006
By 
N123321 (Honolulu, HI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
Powerful movie,an incredible story. I wish all Amerasians could reunite with their fathers. The movie is unforgettable.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and reflective film, October 8, 2006
By 
This review is from: The Beautiful Country (DVD)
A beautiful moving story, that encompasses sadness,love,understanding and hope. Lovely soundtrack to accompany it.
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The Beautiful Country
The Beautiful Country by Hans Petter Moland (DVD - 2005)
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