Category: Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam

Austin Film Society announces OPERATION BABYLIFT as recipient of 2010 Travel Fund Grant

Austin Film Society Grants $111,000 To Texas Filmmakers

Agnes Varnum | Aug 30, 2010

The Austin Film Society is very proud to announce the recipients of its 2010 Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund (TFPF) and Travel Grant programs, which this year gave away a total of $111,000 in cash and goods and services to 33 projects from emerging Texas filmmakers. AFS has now given out over $1.1 million to 293 film and video projects since the program began in 1996.

Cash grants totaling $93,000 and $6,000 worth of Kodak film stock and $5,000 in in-kind services from Seattle-based Alpha Cine Labs will be dispersed to 24 projects to recipients of the Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund, adding to cash grants totaling $7,000 in stipends already dispersed to 10 Texas filmmakers via the Travel Grant program. The largest grant this year went to Ausinite Patrick Bresnan’s documentary feature VIETNAM APPRECIATION DAY, about a subculture of Vietnam War reenactors in suburban Pennsylvania. He received a $9,000 post-production grant for the film.

“The Austin Film Society is humbled by the hundreds of individuals and companies that contributed to make this year’s Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund possible,” said Rebecca Campbell, executive director of the Austin Film Society. “It goes to show how committed our community is to independent, diverse voices in filmmaking.”

Three Austin filmmakers who made award-winning first features received $7,000 grants to help complete their second films. Bob Byington will follow up the festival darling comedy HARMONY AND ME with SEVEN CHINESE BROTHERS, set to star Patton Oswalt (RATATOUILLE, BIG FAN). Kyle Henry received a grant to complete the 4th and final segment of his omnibus feature FOURPLAY, which began an innovative festival-and-digital-download release earlier this summer. And, Chris Eska, winner of the John Cassavetes Award at the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards for his debut AUGUST EVENING, received a grant for the Civil War-set drama SEPTEMBER MORNING.

Two feature documentaries also received $7,000 grants – Ruth Villatoro’s THE CANTINERA, which follows the daily lives of three “cantineras” in Houston – women hired by Latin bars to drink with their male clients; and Susanne Mason’s RETURN TO SENDER which examines the difficult transition faced by prisoners after they are released.

Projects from outside of Austin also fared well this year. Four filmmakers from Houston received grants – Villatoro’s THE CANTINERA, Roberto Minervini’s narrative feature MARFA RED, Jenalia Moreno & Nancy Sarnoff’s documentary STITCHED and Mary Magsamen & Stephan Hillerbrand’s experimental short FOUR PLACE SETTING. 
Two projects by El Paso filmmakers received grants – Elvira Carrizal-Dukes’ narrative feature OCHOA and Mikey Reyes & Carlos Corral’s narrative short RED SANDS. San Antonio filmmaker Will Shipley received a grant for his narrative short MENTIROSO and Laredo filmmaker Marcela Moran received a grant for her documentary short JORNALEROS.

AFS raises funds for TFPF through the annual Texas Film Hall of Fame
and major premieres like ME AND ORSON WELLES, PREDATORS and MACHETE.
AFS also successfully raised $40,000 for TFPF through online donation
and direct mail campaigns this summer. The final grant decisions were made by a panel of three acclaimed filmmakers from outside of the state – Sam Green, the Oscar-nominated director of the documentary THE WEATHER UNDERGROUND; Emily Hubley, director of many award-winning animated shorts and the feature THE TOE TACTIC which premiered at SXSW in 2008; and Alex Rivera, director of the sci-fi feature SLEEP DEALER, winner of two awards at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

AFS Director of Artist Services Bryan Poyser administered the 2010 TFPF and he was assisted by TFPF coordinators Elin Dunigan and Emily Robinson.

Special thanks to the sponsors of the Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund: the Texas Commission on the Arts, the City of Austin Cultural Funding Program, Alpha Cine Labs, Kodak, the Four Seasons Hotel, Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas and The Mohawk.

Photos (300 dpi) available upon request.

2010 Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund Recipients

Angela Torres Camarena
15 min narrative
$3,500 production, post-production & distribution

Thomas Hackett
90 min narrative
$3,000 post-production

Ruth Villatoro
80 min documentary
$7,000 for production

Stephen Mims & Joe Bailey
90 min documentary
$3,000 production

Mary Magsamen & Stephan Hillerbrand
14 min experimental
$1,000 post-production & distribution
$1,000 Alpha Cine Labs services

Kyle Henry
85 min experimental narrative
$7,000 post-production

Jaime Cano
28 min narrative
$2,000 production & post-production

Paul Gordon & David Hartstein
85 min narrative
$2,000 distribution

Marcela Moran
30 min documentary
$1,000 production & post-production

Karen Skloss
7 min experimental narrative
$1,000 production & post-production
$4,000 Alpha Cine Labs services

Roberto Minervini
85 min narrative
$7,000 post-production & distribution

Wilfred Shipley
10 min narrative
$2,000 production

Elvira Carrizal-Dukes
90 min narrative
$2,000 post-production

Scott Meyers
90 min narrative
$4,000 post-production

Mikey Reyes & Carlos Corral
18 min narrative
$2,000 post-production

Susanne Mason
60 min documentary
$7,000 production

Don Howard
57 min documentary
$3,000 production
$3,000 Kodak film stock

Chris Eska
85 min narrative
$7,000 production

Bob Byington
90 min narrative
$7,000 production

Jenalia Moreno & Nancy Sarnoff
60 min documentary
$1,500 production

PJ Raval
90 min documentary
$5,000 post-production

Maryam Kashani
70 min experimental documentary
$3,000 production
$3,000 Kodak film stock

Patrick Xavier Bresnan
90 min documentary
$9,000 post-production

Ricardo Ainslie
90 min documentary
$3,000 production & post-production

2010 Travel Grant Recipients (To Date)

David Modigliani
IFP Project Forum

Tammy Nguyen Lee
San Diego Asian Film Festival

Michel O. Scott
International Documentary Festival Amsterdam

David Lowery
Thessaloniki Film Festival

Amy Grappell
Sundance Film Festival
Rotterdam Film Festival

Sam Douglas
Hot Docs

Kyle Henry

Clay Liford

Chris Ohlson
IFP Rough Cuts Labs

Paul Gordon
Traverse City Film Festival

Austin Film Society promotes the appreciation of film and supports creative filmmaking by screening rarely seen films, giving grants and other support to emerging filmmakers, and providing access and education about film to youth and the public. Through Austin Studios, which AFS opened in 2000 in partnership with the City of Austin, AFS helps attract film development and production to Austin and Texas. Gala film premieres and the annual Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards raise funds as well as awareness of the impact of film on economy and community. The Austin Film Society is ranked among the top film centers in the country and recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and Directors Guild of America. For more information on Austin Film Society, visit

ATG President/Founder to receive 2010 SMU Emerging Leader Award

Congratulations to ATG President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee, who will receive the prestigious SMU Distinguished Alumni Emerging Leader Award at this year’s SMU Homecoming Festivities.

The award recognizes an alumnus or alumna who has graduated within the last fifteen years and has distinguished himself or herself as an emerging leader in a particular discipline, organization, or cause that has brought distinction to the University. The Selection Committee of the Alumni Board convenes each year to consider nominees submitted by alumni throughout the country, and her nomination was unanimously approved.

The black-tie Distinguished Alumni Dinner and Presentation will take place on Thursday, October 21st at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, TX.  Tickets to the event are available here.

A screening of her award-winning documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, along with Q&A and reception is also planned for Friday, October 22nd on the SMU campus. More details TBA.

Tammy will also participate in the Homecoming Parade and attend the SMU Football Game (Mustangs vs. Houston Cougars at Ford Stadium) on Saturday, October 23rd.


Thank you to Booklist for the wonderful review on our award-winning documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. The review will be sent out nationally in their online  September 2010 e-newsletter.  

Commemorating Operation Babylift, a U.S. relief effort that rescued more than 2,500 orphans out of Vietnam in 1975, this update is an informative and passionate look at the aftermath of war and the innocent children lostin the chaos of battle. Filmmaker Tammy Nguyen Lee combines archival black-and white film footage of bombings, evacuations, orphaned babies, and more with interviews with parents, volunteers, and rescued Vietnamese adoptees (now adults) who tell their stories with honesty and poignancy. Camera close-ups help intensify adoptees’ recollections of growing up in the U.S., where antiwar sentiments precipitated some racist behaviors. Efforts to discover their own identities vary from attending adoptees reunions (first organized in 2000) and visiting Vietnam to attempting to adopt a Vietnamese orphan (one of the most emotional stories). One interviewee shares that only when his child was born did he experience the feeling of his own flesh and blood. Extras include further discussions with adoptees and additional footage.  — Edie Ching

Newsday: Nassau Woman Keeps Memory of "Operation Babylift" Alive

Updated: Jul 17, 2010 05:38 PM
It was the final days of the Vietnam War in April 1975 as Saigon was falling, and the United States launched one last massive effort: To airlift as many orphans as possible out of the country.
In the three weeks before the last helicopter lifted off from the roof of the U.S. Embassy, some 2,548 babies and children were flown out. Most ended up in the United States, including about 100 on Long Island.
Now, at the 35th anniversary of the end of the war, “Operation Babylift” is gaining renewed attention, partially because of a Nassau County woman who led the humanitarian effort and adoption campaign on Long Island.
Lana Noone, of Franklin Square , adopted two of the infants and was a main organizer of local families who took in children from Babylift. She helped send supplies, such as baby formula, to Vietnam before the children’s arrival to the United States and then organized outings, cross-cultural events and parties as they grew up.
Next week Noone will speak about Operation Babylift as part of a retrospective program on the Vietnam War hosted by the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts museum. The event will be held at the site of the 1969 Woodstock concert.
Her appearance follows the release of a documentary that opened nationwide this year.
Last year, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., hosted, for the first time, an event to mark Operation Babylift. “Finally, after the 35th anniversary, we’ve gotten this recognition,” said Noone, 63, who appeared at the Smithsonian.
The first sickly infant she adopted, Heather, died a month after arriving on Long Island , and Noone says she vowed to dedicate the rest of her life “to make sure no one would forget there was a Vietnam babylift and her short life would not be in vain.”
Noone’s other adopted daughter, Jennifer, was found wrapped in a blanket in a garbage can in a Saigon market, a common practice by Vietnamese mothers who hoped their babies would be found and placed in a good orphanage. Jennifer Noone, now 35, is a social worker in Manhattan.
Lana Noone says her daughter Jennifer became a cheerleader at H. Frank Carey High School in Franklin Square , a class vice president and a member of the National Honor Society. She went on to graduate with honors from Drew University before attending Columbia University , where she earned her master’s degree.
“I don’t have a day where I don’t think of these birth parents,” Noone said. “My life is full. But it is over their tragedy.”
Jared Rehberg, one of the adoptees who now lives in Queens , helped produce the documentary “Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam ,” and says Babylift lasted just a few weeks “but it changed a lot of lives.”
He still does not know what day he was born, or how he ended up at an orphanage in Vietnam. “It’s kind of a mystery,” he said, adding that he returned to Vietnam in 2005 as part of a group of 21 adoptees who visited for several days.
“It was a little closure for me,” he said.
Today, Lana Noone runs a group and website,, that tries to keep alive the memory of what some call one of the largest humanitarian missions in history. She often receives e-mails from Babylift adoptees trying to track down their birth parents, or from birth parents – including U.S. veterans – trying to track down their children born in Vietnam.
Operation Babylift was criticized by some as a cynical attempt by the United States to generate good public relations amid the debacle of the end of the war. But Noone says she thinks there was little choice.
“I sincerely feel it was the only thing that could have been done,” she said. “They were in harm’s way. There was a war. With all the chaos that was going on, they weren’t on the top of anyone’s list.”

diaCRITIC: Interview with Tammy Nguyen Lee, director of Operation Babylift

Posted on by diaCRITIC

Among the many controversial legacies of the Vietnam War, Operation Babylift dramatically brought the results of U.S. Cold War policy to the front doorsteps of U.S. domestic race politics. Critics have argued that childcare workers and government staff deceptively persuaded Vietnamese parents into allowing their children to go, parents who were desperate to find a safe way out for their children and who believed that they would be reunited eventually.

Tammy Nguyen Lee’s film Operation Babylift revisits the controversial, $2 million mission that airlifted more than 2,500 Vietnamese children out of Saigon during the last days of the war. The first 20 minutes of the film comprise interviews with non-governmental staff who accompanied the children on cargo planes, the first official flight of which blew up in the air due to mechanical failure. The rest of the film presents a series of interviews with 20 of the adoptees, who talk about growing up in the U.S. and realizing they didn’t look like their parents (most of whom were white); their soul-searching for their biological parents (especially their mothers); and their joy in meeting other adoptees who understood their ambivalent feelings about their loss and the privilege of having been separated from war. Their stories remind me of scholar Jodi Kim’s argument about how adoptees experience a “social death” in being cut off from affiliations that provide us with a sense of history, family lineage, and community.

Nguyen Lee was born in Saigon, and fled the country as a boat person when she was three months old. After a year and a half in a refugee camp in Hong Kong, she and her mother were sponsored to the U.S. by a church in Silver Spring, Maryland. Nguyen Lee has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cinema from Southern Methodist University, and a Master of Fine Arts from the Producers Program at UCLA. In addition to her work as a filmmaker, she is the founder of ATG (Against The Grain Productions), a non profit company that creates social issue based media and raises funds for international orphanages.
We sat down for an interview in Los Angeles when she was in Southern California for a screening of her film at UC Irvine. The interview is in two short parts (8:34 min and 1:57 min) because we were cut off momentarily and, this being on the low-tech side, I haven’t been able to paste the two parts together.

Here is the interview:

–Chuong-Dai Vo

OPERATION BABYLIFT to Screen at University Of California-Irvine

Dallas, TX – To commemorate the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon and Operation Babylift, Dallas based non-profit ATG Against the Grain Productions is honored to screen Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam at the University of California – Irvine. The award-winning documentary screening takes place on Friday, May 14th from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm  at UC Irvine Schneiderman Lecture Hall, Room 100A.

Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam tells the significant, yet untold story of the $2 million U.S. initiative that airlifted over 2,500 Vietnamese orphans out of a war-torn country from the impending threat of the Communist regime. These adoptees grew up facing unique challenges in America, including prejudice overshadowed by a controversial war and cultural identity crisis. Featuring compelling and insightful interviews of the volunteers, parents and organizations directly involved, the documentary takes a contemporary look at Operation Babylift and its relevance to international adoption today.

Lee Ngo, UC Irvine PhD student in the department of anthropology and organizer of the event, reflected upon the theme of cultural identity found in Tammy Nguyen Lee’s feature documentary. “With respect to the heated debates over interpreting the aftermath of the Vietnam War, it’s hard to choose a subject of analysis that manages to supersede many of the cultural politics of representation and identity. Tammy does exactly this through her diligent and powerful documentary,” said Ngo. “I think anyone that’s interested in formations of ethnic identity, an alternative to the hegemonic American perspective in contemporary Vietnamese history, and the complexity of international altruism should see this film. It is certainly one of the highlights of the 2009 Vietnamese International Film Festival,” said Ngo.

There will also be a Q&A following the screening with the film’ producer and director, Tammy Nguyen Lee.   “We had our world premiere at ViFF and are thrilled to return to Southern California to share this inspiring story during what is a most significant month for our community’s history,” said Lee, a MFA graduate from UCLA’s Producers Program.

The free community screening is sponsored by the UCI Department of Anthropology, UCI Vietnamese American Coalition (VAC), UCI Asian Pacific Student Association (APSA) and the Union of Vietnamese Students Association of Southern California (UVSA). Tammy Nguyen Lee is a first generation Vietnamese American and founded ATG Against the Grain Productions, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, to promote Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects, while also raising funds for international orphanages. This is her feature documentary directorial debut. For more information please visit Additional information for the UCI community screening is available at or

OPERATION BABYLIFT in Bayshore Courier News

Our upcoming community screening in New Jersey of Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam is in the Bayshore Courier News. To see the original article, please visit their website.

Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam
Bayshore Courier News

Click on picture to Zoom

Holmdel – On April 3, 1975, United States President Gerald R. Ford announced that “Operation Babylift” would fly some of the estimated 70,000 Vietnamese babies and children who were left orphaned by the Vietnam War to safety in America. Thirty flights, combining private and military planes, transported at least 2,000 children to the United States and another 1,300 children to Canada, Europe and Australia. These children, born in a war-torn land, grew up as members of international, adoptive families.

On Saturday, April 24, 2010 from 11:00 am until 4:00 pm, the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation will host a screening, followed by a group discussion, of the 2009 Award-Winning Film, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam in celebration of the 35th anniversary of Operation Babylift. Many of the adoptees, organizers, family and friends involved in Operation Babylift will be in attendance to celebrate the 35th anniversary.

There will also be an honor guard procession recognizing those who did not survive the humanitarian mission known as Operation Babylift. This program will be held at the Vietnam Era Educational Center in Holmdel, NJ.

Guest speakers will include event organizer and author Lana Mae Noone and her daughter Jennifer Nguyen Noone, MSW, who she adopted through Babylift. Dr. Robert Ballard, a professor at Waterloo University (Ontario, Canada) and a Babylift Adoptee, and his wife Sarah who specializes in international adoption will also speak. The director of Project Reunite Trista Goldberg, also a Babylift Adoptee, will discuss her Babylift story. The nationally acclaimed author of The Life We Were Given, Dana Sachs will be present to address the audience. Retired U.S. Army Medic Ron Speight, a Vietnam Era veteran, will provide a dialogue about Operation New Life, a humanitarian program for Vietnam adults. There will be a Vietnamese and American musical performance by Lana Mae Noone prior to the film screening. The cast and crew of Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam including Producer/Director Tammy Nguyen Lee and Associate Producer Jared Rehberg will be present for a question and answer period. The documentary, which was partly filmed in New Jersey, tells the contemporary story of the adoptees as adults. Several of the day’s speakers are featured in the film. Book signings and a reception with the opportunity to view Operation Babylift artifacts will follow the film screening. The event schedule is available for view on The program is dedicated to all those who did not survive Operation Babylift.

Attendees are asked to RSVP to (732) 335-0033. Regular admission applies. Regular admission is free for veterans and active-duty military personnel. Regular adult admission is $4.00; student and senior citizen admission is $2.00; and children under 10 are admitted free. The Vietnam Era Educational Center is located adjacent to the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial off the Garden State Parkway at exit 116. The Educational Center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am – 4 pm.

OPERATION BABYLIFT screens this Friday 4/23 at NYU

The Asian/Pacific/American Institute of New York University will host a screening and discussion of the award-winning documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm this Friday, April 23rd at the Cantor Film Center, located at 36 East 8th Street, Theater 101, New York .  The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. RSVP via the A/P/A Institute website, email or call 212-992-9653.

Operation Babylift was a $2 million U.S. initiative that airlifted more than 2,500 Vietnamese orphans out of a war-torn country in 1975 to protect them from the impending threat of the Communist regime. Called one of the “most humanitarian efforts in history,” it was plagued by lawsuits and political turmoil.

The documentary, released in 2009, takes a candid look at Operation Babylift as seen through the eyes of the volunteers, parents and organizations directly involved. It uncovers the lost stories of the adoptees and who they have become as adults, revealing their compelling struggles and triumphs and giving them the opportunity to finally share their journeys from their perspectives.

This event celebrates the 35th anniversary of Operation Babylift and joins conversations about child rescue and adoption that have intensified in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti. A post-screening panel will discuss Operation Babylift as well as the issues faced by adoptees from Asia.

Panelists include:

Tammy Nguyen Lee, Filmmaker, Operation Babylift

Jared Rehberg, Associate Producer and adoptee participant, Operation Babylift

Tara Leaman, Associate Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and adoptee participant, Operation Babylift

Marissa Martin, President of Also-Known-As, Inc.

Lili Johnson, NYU Student, Dept of Social & Cultural Analysis, and adoptee from China

Moderated by Laura Chen-Schultz, Deputy Director, A/P/A Institute at NYU

The screening is made possible by support from the NYU Center for Media, Culture and History/Center for Religion and Media .Co-sponsored by Familes with Children from China of Greater New York and Also Known As, Inc.

To RSVP, visit the A/P/A Institute Operation Babylift Event Page.

More information about the documentary is available at