What happens when you put together underground dance battles and teenage romance and set them in the bustling atmosphere of one of Vietnam’s busiest metropolis? You get, Saigon Electric (alternatively known as “Saigon Yo!”) a dynamic film featuring the lifestyle of break-dancers within the Vietnamese youth culture. Though the film may be labeled as the Vietnamese version of movies such as You Got Served or Step Up. Saigon Electric however, displays a much deeper perspective within the growing population of Vietnamese youth. Unlike several of Hollywood’s dance movies, Saigon Electric appears to be promising, delivering much more authenticity, soul, and effective character development.
Director Stephane Gauger’s (who recently directed Owl and Sparrow) goal was to introduce the audience in the growing trend of hip hop and breakdancing within the younger generations of Vietnam. “My wish is to give the teenagers a voice and present to an international audience a fresh new look at the dreams and struggles of Asian youth,” said Gauger. If you’ve ever seen Owl and Sparrow, you’ll probably agree that Gauger’s strength as a director lies within both his cinematography and his effective storytelling.
The movie focuses on protagonist Mai (played by Van Trang), a traditional Vietnamese ribbon dancer from the countryside, who journeys to Saigon in order to audition for a position at a prestigious dance academy. However, after being turned down by the academy, Mai loses sight of her future but slowly gains confidence after befriending the street-smart Kim. Unlike Mai who specializes in traditional Vietnamese dance, Kim’s expertise lies in the contemporary hip hop dance style known as b-boying and eventually shows Mai the ropes behind this growing trend in the tenderloins of Saigon. Kim later introduces Mai to Do-boy, the captain of a dance crew name “Saigon Fresh,” with which Kim is affiliated.
“Saigon Fresh” dance crew captain, Do-Boy (played by Zen 04)
I won’t go too much into details about the plot of the movie. I don’t want to leak any spoilers to those who are interested. However, I will tell you that there are going to be a lot of dance battles, drama, and familiar cameos in this movie. To name a few:
Elly Tran Ha, Vietnamese Model
Pham Thi Han (leading actress in Owl and Sparrow)
and featuring music from Vietnamese Hip Hop artist, Suboi.
Reasons why you should watch this film:
1) There are not many Vietnamese movies out there that portray the growing youth of contemporary Vietnam. Nearly half of the Vietnamese population are young adults, but not enough movies out there seem to showcase the contemporary lifestyle of Vietnam’s youth. Stephane Gauger may be one of the first pioneers to do so.
2) I love hip-hop. I’ve been listening to many Asian American hip-hop artist like Blue Scholars, Lyrics Born, Dumbfoundead, Denizen Kane. Now to see a movie that centralizes on Vietnamese people/culture grooving to hip-hop music is rare but also fortunate in today’s movie industry. I am equally excited for the music as much as I am for the aesthetic of the film; I’ve seen Vietnamese attempt of hip-hop and rap from big time media like Paris by Night and Van Son and to be bluntly honest…it misses the mark, if you ask me. Some of quasi-Vietnamese rappers cannot deliver or spit rhymes eloquently as some of the artist priorly mentioned. However when I first heard Suboi’s music in some of the clips from “Saigon Electric,” I was immediately blown away. The girl can actually spit fire. Her ability to sculpt the tonality of Vietnamese phonetics into rhythmic monotone really caters to the sound of current hip hop music.
Here are a list of selected theaters that showcased Saigon Electric since 10/7/11
Orange County, CA
Edwards University Village
Regal Garden Grove 16
San Jose, CA
Camera 12 Cinemas
Landmark Shattuck Cinemas
San Diego, CA
AMC Mission Valley 20
AMC Southcenter 16
AMC Southcenter 16
AMC Firewheel 16
AMC Park Arlington
Washington, DC (Falls Church)
Regal Ballston Commons
I am quite confident that Saigon Electric will be a good if not interesting movie showcasing youth culture in Vietnam’s contemporary society. Not many Vietnamese Americans are even aware that hip-hop is alive in Vietnam, but this film proves otherwise. What are some elements in the film you guys are anticipating? Do you think Saigon Electric may be a prime example of encouraging filmmakers to showcase more Vietnamese contemporary cultures in their future installments? Share your thoughts.