MAY/JUN 2006


Filmmaker Othello Khanh’s Rebel Heart and the Sai Gon Eclipse

1735 km

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a New Vision of Cinema
in Viet Nam Today

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The Making of Kieu

Telling It Like It Is

Duc Nguyen’s Bolinao 52 and the Untold Story of the Surviving Refugees


Back Issues

Filmmaker Othello Khanh’s Rebel
Heart and the Sai Gon Eclipse

by Oanh Ly
photos courtesy of Othello Khanh and Crea TV

"Chao Anh. Bonjour. Buenos Dias, Compadre. Good morning." That is how my interview with Othello Khanh began. From Los Angeles, I plugged my microphone and headphones into my laptop and called Othello in Ho Chi Minh City. It was my first ever free international call thanks to a company called Skype.

Days before when I was setting up the call, Othello's Production Manager Irene told me I didn't need to buy a long distance calling card to call Viet Nam anymore. I just needed to log onto and call Othello using my computer. Not only was the call hi-tech, it was free! (Free is the language I know best.)

Skype is what all the hip techno-geeks are using these days to connect with their international friends. I skyped Othello and his voice came through crystal clear. It was an exercise in hi-tech evolution. But I would not expect anything less from the multimedia savvy and multilingual Othello Khanh.

Speaking of multi-fill-in-the-blanks, add multitalented and multitasker to Othello's lengthy bio. In his 40 years, he's been a cameraman, musician, producer, director, writer, editor, documentary filmmaker and activist. Considering his pedigree, it is a wonder that you probably haven't heard of Othello Khanh yet. But you will.

The Khanh Pedigree
During the beginning of the 20th century, when Viet Nam was still occupied by France, there was a stigma attached to the Vietnamese who traveled to France to work and study. They were considered the privileged few. Othello's father, Quasar Khanh, was one of them.

Quasar Khanh was born in Ha Noi in 1934 and came to France in 1947 to study.

"My father's Godfather was in the French Foreign Legion. So my father was raised like a little French boy," says Othello.

Quasar lived and studied in Paris and graduated from the prestigious engineering school Ecole des Ponts et Chausses. His design credits boast a long list of inventions that range from high-end to quirky. They include inflatable furniture, a cubed car made out of Plexiglas, dams, bridges, arches, and a hovercraft. Yes, a hovercraft.

Othello's French mother had an equally impressive resume. Emmanuelle Khanh was a successful model in the 1950s working the runways for topnotch designers like Givenchy and Balenciaga. After modeling, she started designing clothes.

"At the time, there was no pret-a-porter. There was only haute couture. And regular people could not afford the designer labels," says Othello.

Emmanuelle's time on the runway helped her to develop her talents for design. She wanted to create clothing that was more affordable and accessible to the masses. With the help of an experienced seamstress from an atelier, she began to create ready-to-wear clothes and came into her own as a designer.

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