Past Event

Vietnamese Representation, Queerness, Nostalgia in Leon Le's Song Lang

April 1, 2021
8:00 PM - 9:30 PM
Online Event Zoom Webinar

Vietnamese Representation, Queerness, Nostalgia in Leon Le's Song Lang: A Chat with the Director

Please join us for a panel discussion with:

Leon Le, Director
Ronald Gregg, Columbia School of the Arts
Takuya Tsunoda, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University
Ying Qian, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University
Moderated by: John Phan, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University

LGBTQ representation in Vietnamese film—itself only a recently burgeoning artform and industry—has hitherto been virtually nonexistent. And yet, the film industry in Vietnam has experienced a meteoric development over the past fifteen years or so—overlapping almost precisely, with a rapid and dramatic transformation in social attitudes towards sexuality, and especially same-sex relationships. While LGBTQ relationships and identities have always been a part of Vietnamese culture over long centuries of development, the past fifteen years have witnessed a turn towards explicit embrace, as well as a broadening concept of sexuality and relationship, beyond simple and strict notions of homo-versus heterosexuality. This broadening has included the representation of deeply emotive same-sex relationships that have less to do with sexual liberation than they have to do with the revival and/or reconsideration of a diversity of emotional relationships that occur between members of the same sex—including the erotic and romantic. Leon Le’s Song Lang stands at the forefront of this movement.

Filmed entirely in Vietnam, Song Lang focuses on the relationship between a local gangster and an actor in a Cai Luong ‘reform opera’ troupe under the control of the gang. The film has been praised not only for its rich visual vocabulary, sense of tone and atmosphere, homage to the artform of Cai Luong opera, and uniquely nostalgic look at 1980s Saigon, but also for its sensitive and moving expression of a relationship between two that defies social categorization.

Writer/Director Leon Le emigrated to the US at the age of 13, and after making a name for himself as an actor in New York’s musical theater scene, has gone on to become an award-winning director. His two previous films, Dawn (2013) and My Mother (2014) both earned him multiple awards, including Best Short Film for Dawn (VIFFI), Best Director for Dawn (YXINEFF), Best Director and Best Actor for My Mother, and Best LGBT Short Film (YXINEFF) for both Dawn and My Mother. 

Online via Zoom. Please register here

The full screening of the film will be available starting at 12pm EDT on March 31st and up until the start of the event. You can view the film here: The link is currently password protected; it will become active on March 31st at the above stated time. Alternatively, you can stream the film on Amazon, Fandango, YouTube, Vudu and iTunes at any time. 

This event is cosponsored by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and the Columbia School of the Arts.

Contact Information

Athina Fontenot