Operation Babylift


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2005, 55 Minutes

The stories of three Vietnamese-Australians who were among more than 3000 babies airlifted from Saigon orphanages at the end of the Vietnam War.

In April 1975, in the closing days of the Vietnam War, more than 3000 babies were airlifted from Saigon orphanages and delivered into the arms of waiting couples in the US, Canada, Britain, Europe and Australia. It was the largest act of adoption in history.

Although many Westerners saw Operation Babylift as a humanitarian necessity, many Vietnamese considered it kidnapping - particularly as some children were not, in fact, orphans.

Thirty years on, this powerful documentary tells the stories of three of the 281 children brought to Australia. Who are they today? And how do they feel about themselves and their past? Their personal experiences are remarkably different; their answers likely to surprise you. Filmmaker Dai Le, herself a Vietnam War refugee, takes us on a journey of discovery that presents a human face to decisions made with “the best of intentions”. She accompanies one of the adoptees on an emotionally turbulent trip back to Vietnam, in search of her past.

Through candid interviews with the children (now grown), their adoptive parents, those involved in the airlift and Vietnamese families and politicians, this compelling film explores complex issues of inter-racial adoption and cultural identity as well as providing an insight into the political background to this controversial operation.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced in association with SBS Independent. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.

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Writer/Director: Dai Le

Cinematographer/Producer: Helen Barrow

Narrator: Dai Le

Featured People: Christina Tinka-Casson, Martine Bach, Shane Bolt

Year: 2005

Running Time: 55 Minutes

Classification: Exempt from classification

Curriculum Links: SOSE/HSIE; Southeast Asian History; Australian History; Education; English; Family & Community Studies; Multicultural and Migration Research; Asian Studies; Media Studies; Peace, Conflict and War Studies; Social Work; The Vietnam War; War and Australian Society in the 20th Century.


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