Staff Picks: Trinh T. Minh-ha

Staff Picks: Trinh T. Minh-ha


Trinh T. Minh-ha, Surname Viet Given Name Nam (clip), 1989. Courtesy of the artist and Women Make Movies, New York.

March 1, 2023
Staff Picks: Trinh T. Minh-ha
Surname Viet Given Name Nam: March 1–31
Instagram / Facebook

e-flux Film is very pleased to present Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989, 108 minutes) as the March 2023 edition of our monthly series Staff Picks.

To use an image is to enter fiction.
—Trinh T. Minh-Ha

In 1990, Trinh T. Minh-ha stated in her noted text “Documentary Is/Not a Name” that “there is no such thing as documentary–whether the term designates a category of material, a genre, an approach, or a set of techniques,” criticizing the documentary’s claims of truth and voicing a criticism of realist aesthetics. In Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), Minh-ha explores this practically, while also examining complex intersections of gender, nationalism, and cultural migration. In this and other early films, she questions the idea that documentaries can provide an objective representation of reality. Instead, Minh-ha shows that documentary is inherently subjective and shaped by the filmmaker’s perspective, biases, and cultural background. In her own words, a real challenge for the filmmaker is to begin anew, “… to become a stranger in your own culture, your own territory, your own home”. Minh-ha’s call for a more reflexive and self-conscious approach to documentary filmmaking, one that acknowledges the filmmaker’s position and engages with the complexities and contradictions of the politics of representation and translation, has undoubtedly become one of the most important contributions to contemporary documentary practice and theory.

Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989, 108 minutes)
This autobiographical, ethnographic, experimental, and self-reflective documentary offers a multifaceted exploration of the roles of Vietnamese women throughout history. Minh-ha weaves together many experiences and forms, drawing on dance, printed texts, folk poetry, and the stories of women in both the North and South of Vietnam and the US. With beauty and depth, Surname Viet Given Name Namchallenges dominant culture by exalting the voices of women.

Trinh T. Minh-ha is a world-renowned independent filmmaker and feminist, post-colonial theorist. Born in Hanoi in 1952, she emigrated to the United States in 1970 where she studied musical composition, ethnomusicology, and French literature, completing her PhD dissertation in 1977. Since the early 1980s she has developed a complex theoretical, visual, and poetic response to the implicit politics regulating the production of discourses and images of cultural difference. Working through the multidimensional effects of imperialism and neo-colonial modernity, her works played a pivotal role in the emergence of postcolonial theory and critique. Her now canonical 1989 book Woman, Native, Other investigates the contradictory imperatives faced by an “I” positioned “in difference” as a “Third World woman” in the act of writing, as well as in critiquing the roles of the creator, intellectual, and anthropologist. Trinh has been making films for over thirty years and among her best known are Reassemblage (1982) and Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989). Alongside films and installations, she has published numerous essays and books on cinema, cultural politics, feminism, and the arts.

About the series 
Staff Picks is a monthly streaming series on e-flux Film of staff picks and recommended videos designed to disrupt the monotony of an algorithm. Before the end times of big data, we used to discover suggested content along dusty shelves in video rental stores, where Post-it notes scribbled by shift workers implored us to experience the same movies that made them guffaw, scream, or weep. Sometimes the content bored us, sometimes it overwhelmed us, and sometimes, as if by magic, it was just right. e-flux invites you to relive this rental store mode of perusal, with personalized picks curated through judgment that does not take into consideration your viewing history. 

For more information, contact

RSVP for Staff Picks: Trinh T. Minh-ha
March 1, 2023

Thank you for your RSVP.

e-flux will be in touch.


e-flux announcements are emailed press releases for art exhibitions from all over the world.

Agenda delivers news from galleries, art spaces, and publications, while Criticism publishes reviews of exhibitions and books.

Architecture announcements cover current architecture and design projects, symposia, exhibitions, and publications from all over the world.

Film announcements are newsletters about screenings, film festivals, and exhibitions of moving image.

Education announces academic employment opportunities, calls for applications, symposia, publications, exhibitions, and educational programs.

Sign up to receive information about events organized by e-flux at e-flux Screening Room, Bar Laika, or elsewhere.

I have read e-flux’s privacy policy and agree that e-flux may send me announcements to the email address entered above and that my data will be processed for this purpose in accordance with e-flux’s privacy policy*

Thank you for your interest in e-flux. Check your inbox to confirm your subscription.