Tran T. Kim-Trang

2002, 28:00 minutes, colour & B/W


amaurosis is an experimental documentary about Dat Nguyen, a blind guitarist living in Little Saigon, Orange County, California. Dat Nguyen was a "triple outcast": blind, Amerasian, and an impoverished orphan. His American father left Viet Nam in 1973, and his mother died in 1975. Living on the streets of Saigon, he sold lottery tickets for food money. At the age of 12, Dat met a classical music teacher who was also blind and who taught him to read Braille as well as supported him. When he was 18, Dat heard Segovia played for the first time on his teacher's radio and became hooked on classical guitar. Several years later, he learned that Amerasian children could immigrate to the U.S. under a new program, and thus began his life in the States.

Dat needed little accommodation for his blindness in learning the guitar; he is able to play almost anything note for note after hearing it only once. Dat has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Reader's Digest, and Fox News Network for his talent. The video unfolds as layers of dialogues with Dat Nguyen and his experiences as a new immigrant and young adult in America. The soundtrack will feature Dat's band, Bayadera’s original music.

amaurosis is a media work about an individual in a community seldom represented. Beyond their disabilities, this community of Vietnamese-Americans is oppressed on many levels: language and cultural differences, immigrant and lower income status, and societal misunderstanding and alienation. From a typical Vietnamese perspective, which still holds many superstitions to be true, people with disabilities are seen as symbols of bad karma and ill omens, causes for shame and fright. Saddest of all is the wholesale dismissal of the disabled person as incapable of anything productive in life. From a Western perspective, many of these prejudices have been exposed, and although blatant displays occur less often, more insidious and subtle forms of discrimination still take place on a daily basis. The tape strives to present the life of one member from this unique community and promote his rich contributions.

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