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Vietnam Symphony - an underground symphony family

Video clip synopsis – Tuan observes that his father’s reunion with the Xuan Phu villagers is just like a family reunion. His father was a cellist in the Hanoi Symphony Orchestra that took refuge in the village during the Vietnam War.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 3min 35sec
Tags - Asia, belonging, culture, family, Screen Asia, Vietnam Symphony, Vietnam War, war, see all tags


Vietnam Symphony - an underground symphony family

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About the Video Clip


On arrival in Xuan Phu, Tuan observes that his father’s reunion with the villagers is just like a family reunion. At the 1960s site of the underground orchestra, there is a discussion about the dimensions of the campus, now covered by banana palms. Observed by curious local school children, we see preparations for the concert. The outdoor concert comprises a traditional Vietnamese orchestra performance, as well as the Hanoi Symphony Orchestra performance. The whole village community, as well as members of the military, enjoys the concert. The clip ends on a note of hope for the future with Professor Huong smiling and receiving a bouquet.

This digital resource is from the project Screen Asia, a joint production of the Asia Education Foundation, Australian Children’s Television Foundation and Screen Australia Digital Learning. Click here for more digital resources for Asia.

Vietnam Symphony – an underground symphony family is an excerpt from the documentary Vietnam Symphony, produced in 2005. Vietnam Symphony is a Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Stonebridge Productions. Developed with the assistance of the Australian Film Commission. Produced in association with the NSW Film and Television Office and SBS Independent.

Curriculum Focus


In the middle years of schooling, students can synthesise, analyse, reflect on and apply their learning to personal experiences of Asia in an increasingly independent way. They engage in cultural exchange, reflecting their enhanced understanding of their own culture, and their richer and broader framework of knowledge and understanding of Asian cultures. The aim is that students will increasingly empathise with people from different cultural backgrounds, and develop intercultural values and skills to participate in, learn from, contribute to and engage confidently in diverse cultural environments at home and abroad.

Asia Scope and Sequence: English, SOSE, The Arts

Australian Curriculum: English, History, Arts

All state and territory syllabuses for English, SOSE and Arts

Background Information


Vietnam Symphony – an underground symphony family is an excerpt from the documentary Vietnam Symphony, produced in 2005.

In 1965, as the Vietnam War intensified and Hanoi faced the threat of massive US bombing, students and teachers from the National Conservatory of Music were forced to flee the city for the relative safety of a small village in the countryside. With the help of villagers, they built an entire campus underground, creating a maze of hidden tunnels, connecting an auditorium and classrooms. Here, the war raged around them, they lived, studied and played music for five years.

The documentary interviews members of the orchestra in contemporary Hanoi, and follows their preparation for a return to the village and a reunion concert. It presents stories of danger and resilience, as well as the story of a changed Vietnam. These talented musicians and composers are now among the country’s cultural leaders, but they are finding it difficult to accept the next generation’s attitude to their ‘cultural treasure’ of classical musicianship.

Vietnam Symphony is written and directed by Tom Zubrycki.

This digital resource will assist students to understand Asia, to develop informed attitudes and values, to know about contemporary and traditional Asia, and to connect Australia and Vietnam (National Statement for Engaging Students with the Studies of Asia)

Classroom Activities


For further background preparation, students should create a ‘Fact File’ rubric of three columns. (You will find a model on page 50 in In our Own Backyard: Connecting to Global Issues in Our Region, edited by Bronwyn Collie, published by Curriculum Corporation, 2006.) Label your three columns ‘Feature of Comparison’, ‘Vietnam’ and ‘Australia’. To complete the boxes, research information for the following ‘features of comparison’ for both countries: Geographic area, Population, Government, Capital population, Dominant language, Other main languages, Main ethnic groups, Religions, Average income per day/year, Average life expectancy, National literacy rate, Major exports including any to Vietnam/Australia, Major imports including any from Vietnam/Australia, Cultural exchanges with Australia/Vietnam.

Activity 1: Ask students to discuss and respond to the following questions:

  1. When Tuan witnesses his father’s reunion with the villagers, he feels it is the same as a family reunion. Why is this an appropriate analogy? How important is ‘family’ in Vietnamese culture? Why? What is the importance of ancestors? Is this similar, or different, for you in Australia?
  2. There is one day of the year in Australia when reunions connected to wartime take place across the nation. What is this day? How and why do they also resemble family reunions?
  3. The outdoor concert program caters for all generations. What different styles of music are presented? (Consider popular culture, traditional and classical styles). How does the audience react during rehearsal and the actual show? Give examples.
  4. The film conveys that music and performance have a certain magic for human beings of all ages and backgrounds. Which images strongly show this? What devices and camera shots does the director use to convey this?

Activity 2: Individually, in pairs, or in a group, students are asked to research, organise and write their responses to the following:

  1. Research traditional Vietnamese musical instruments eg zither, lute, monochord, two-stringed fiddle, percussion. What are their names in Vietnamese?
  2. Invite local Vietnamese community musicians to play at your school.
  3. Tuan now values his father’s story and the extraordinary survival story of the Hanoi Orchestra. Will the making of the film and the reunion concert alleviate the fears of the professor about his son and the future? Do we see evidence of any other young Vietnamese classical musicians?

Activity 3: Individually, in pairs or in a group, students are asked to research and write their responses to the following:

  1. Do you feel that the director is presenting a story about music and cultural heritage, or about relationships and human behaviour? Give reasons for your opinion and cite appropriate scenes. Present this in a two column table, using ‘Music and cultural heritage’ and ‘Relationships and human behaviour’ as headings.
  2. Are there skills and professions in your family that your parents and/or grandparents encourage you to follow? How do you feel about this? Are there any patterns of occupations in your family history? Do these occupations derive from other cultures? Research information about your family and include this information as a flow chart/family tree, indicating each member, their relationship to the family and what their occupation was.

Further Resources


Vietnam Symphony Teachers Notes, Film Australia.

Costain, M, 2005, Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism, P20–23, in The Really Big Beliefs Project, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Hamston, J & Murdoch, K, 2004, Australia Kaleidoscope, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne. (This book includes a chapter about a young Australian performer in the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, trained by Chinese acrobats.)

Hoepper, B, 2008, Vietnam Topic Book, SOSE Alive, Jacaranda

Kwok, J and McKnight L, 2002, Film Asia, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Vietnamese Music in Australia – A general survey by Le Tuan Hung

Ledger, S and Ledger, R, 1998, Snapshots of Asia: Vietnam, Curriculum Corporation Australia, Melbourne.

Lewis, R, 1997, Vietnam – Young People, Old Country. Secondary, Curriculum Corporation, Melbourne.

Wheeler, 2007, Lonely Planet ,Vietnam Guide, Lonely Planet. 5th edition.