For westerners, the most well-known event in Vietnamese history is the country's war against the United States. Nonetheless, the country's history cannot be summed up by that single event, as this article shows.
This cult American film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979. The action takes place during the Vietnam War, when American military intelligence orders Captain Willard to execute Colonel Kurtz (played by Marlon Brando) because his methods are considered unorthodox. The film is a good example of the cruelty of the Vietnam War, a dark episode in recent history.
It's worth mentioning that the film was shot in the Philippines and not in Vietnam.
The Buffalo Boy (Mùa Len Trâu)
This 2004 Vietnamese film portrays Vietnam in the 1930s. It tells the story of a young boy who lives with his family on the Mekong Delta and who has to assume the role of head of the household due to his father's illness. Despite the fact that the action is rather slow paced, it's worth watching because of its historical context, describing the transitions between the different dynasties up to French colonisation, as well as showing the living conditions of the country's most deprived people. The cinematography is also interesting, and makes you want to visit Vietnam.
In his book, The Quiet American, the author relates the story of a love triangle that takes place between Hanoi and Saigon during the French occupation of Vietnam in the 1950s. It's worth reading because of its narrative and for its critique of American involvement in Indochina. With some outstanding scenes and an exceptional description of the era, this book is essential reading before any trip to Vietnam.
Duong Thu Huong
This Vietnamese author was politically active and was a member of the Communist party until she was expelled as a result of the criticisms she published, which even resulted in her being imprisoned for eight years. Her first novels were hugely successful before being banned by the regime. Her works deal with postwar Vietnam, at a time when the country needed to restore individual freedoms and make its political regime more democratic. One of her books, Journey in Childhood, tells the story of a young girl who runs away from home in search of her father.