Bolinao 52 (educational)

    • Directed by: Duc Nguyen
    • Produced by: Duc Nguyen

    Discussion Guide
    Released: 2007
    Running Time: 57 min
    Subtitles: English 

    Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, millions refugees took the perilous escape across the South China Sea to find freedom. Many died of drowning or starvation and thirst. Others were lost at sea for days, while some were pillaged, robbed, and raped by pirates. However, more than 30 years after, no major film or television program tells their stories. BOLINAO 52 is a long-silenced voice, an unspoken legacy of the Vietnam War—the story of the Vietnamese Boat People. When Tung Trinh, a survivor of the Bolinao 52, set foot onto a crowded boat one night in May 1988, she did not know it was a trip that would forever change her life. After leaving Vietnam, the Bolinao 52 engine died. They were ignored by passing ships. 19 days later, a US Navy ship stopped, but the captain refused to pick up the dying refugees. Facing death, they resorted to cannibalism. After 37 days at sea, 52 of 110 survived. Two decades later, this Bolinao 52 survivor returned to her past to close off the unresolved chapters.

    Bolinao 52 (Trailer) from Collective Eye Films on Vimeo.


    • Winner of 2 Regional Emmy Awards - 2009
    • Outstanding Achievement in Documentary
    • Outstanding Music Composition
    • Audience Choice Award at the Vietnamese International Film Festival - 2007


    •  San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival - 2007
    •  Chicago Asian American Showcase - 2007
    •  VC Film Fest, Los Angeles - 2007
    •  Wine Country Film Festival - 2007 
    •  New York Asian American International Film Festival - 2007 
    •  Globians Documentary Film Festival. Potsdam, Germany - 2007 
    •  Asian Film Festival of Dallas Asian Pacific Fund - 2007 
    •  DC APA Film Festival - 2007 
    •  Raindance Film Festival. London, England - 2007 
    •  Austin Film Festival - 2007 
    •  San Diego Asian Film Festival - 2007 
    •  Vancouver Asian Film Festival - 2007 
    •  Santa Fe Film Festival - 2007


    “While the notion of closure has become one of American culture's most banal cliches, "Bolinao 52" earns its catharsis, because the subjects have lived with the pain for so long they're ready to let some of it go. In telling the story of one boat, Nguyen is hoping that he'll ease some of the burden of many who survived the South China Sea passage.”
    - Andrew Gilbert, San Jose Mercury News

    “If you're looking for the doc competition's most horrific narrative, seek out Bolinao 52, a nevertheless gracious film that gets to bottom of what happened to a group of Vietnamese "boat people" who attempted to leave their country in 1988... And if that kind of trauma can eventually lead to healing, there's hope yet for the subjects of all the other films—not to mention the world as a whole.”
    - Cheryl Eddy,San Francisco Bay Guardian

    “Long after the Vietnam War had ended, refugees were still streaming out of that country on small boats pathetically ill-equipped for long ocean voyages. Of the millions who attempted to escape, it is believed as many as half died. One of the most horrifying such odysseys is recounted in this documentary by Duc Nguyen.”
    - Bruce Newman, Contra Costa Times