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Video clip synopsis – The stories of three Vietnamese-Australians who were among more than 3000 babies airlifted from Saigon orphanages at the end of the Vietnam War.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 3min 3sec
Tags - DIY Doco, documentary genre, ethics, identity, Vietnam War, see all tags


Operation Babylift

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About the Video Clip


This video clip is an excerpt from the minute 55 minute film Operation Babylift, produced in 2004.

Operation Babylift
In April 1975, in the closing days of the Vietnam War, more than 3000 babies were airlifted from Saigon orphanages and delivered into the arms of waiting couples in the US, Canada, Britain, Europe and Australia. The displacement of people caused by this war was sure to produce world problems.

A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced in association with SBS Independent.

Curriculum Focus


Through these activities, students will:

  • gain knowledge and appreciation about the issue international adoption and displacement
  • develop an understanding of the context of the situation from which an event occurs
  • understand complexities involved when analysing issues
  • speak and listen through discussion in order to examine issues, evaluate opinions, argue points, make judgements in order to persuade others
  • analyse different points of view on a political and legal issue
  • research and develop their own point of view about ‘Operation Airlift’
  • study the elements and film techniques used in the documentary genre.

These are extracts only. For further information please see the National Curriculum Statements for English.

Background Information


Although many Westerners saw Operation Babylift as a humanitarian necessity, many Vietnamese considered it kidnapping – particularly as some children were not, in fact, orphans.

Thirty years on, this powerful documentary tells the story of three of the 281 children brought to Australia. Who are they today? And how do they feel about themselves and their past?

Filmmaker Dai Le, herself a Vietnam War refugee, takes us on a journey of discovery that explores decisions made with ‘the best of intentions’. She accompanies Christina, one of the adoptees, on an emotionally turbulent trip back to Vietnam, in search of her past. Christina Tinker Casson returned to Vietnam in the hope that she would find her birth parents.

Through candid interviews with the children (now grown), their adoptive parents, those involved in the airlift and Vietnamese families and politicians, this compelling film explores complex issues of inter-racial adoption and cultural identity, as well as providing an insight into the political background to this controversial operation.

The film exposes two points of view about adopting Vietnamese orphans. A Salvation Army spokesperson expresses fear about taking the children from their culture, whereas Frea Bolt (adoptee Shane’s mum) states, ‘We’re not living in an ideal world.’ When war produces homeless children, Frea sees adoption into a loving family as the next best thing to the birth family.

Classroom Activities


Inter-racial adoption
Operation Babylift is a ‘social issue’ documentary, that is, a documentary that focuses on issues important to the community, whether it be local or international, in order to raise awareness.

  1. Conduct a class discussion and answer the following questions
    1. What central issue does Operation Babylift explore?
    2. What are the various sides to this central issue? Give reasons why people from Western and Vietnamese cultures may have different opinions about inter-racial adoption.
    3. What is your opinion on the issue?
    4. ‘We’re not living in an ideal world.’ When war produces homeless children, Frea Bolt (adoptive parent) sees adoption into a loving family as the next best thing to the birth family. Do you agree with her? Explain your reasons.
    5. Could Operation Babylift happen today?
    6. Research and find out about inter-racial adoption laws today. You may like to consider ‘celebrity adoptions’. How does this information affect you opinion on the issue?

To what extent does our cultural identity shape personal identity?

  1. Write a 600-word point of view essay on the above topic using the video clip as a reference text.
    Consider the following:
    1. Dai Le (filmmaker) says, ‘Christina and I are daughters of Vietnam’
    2. Dai Le is a refugee and Christina is an orphan – how are they different?

Documentary style
Operation Babylift video clip uses the following film techniques:

  • archival footage (existing film footage)
  • narration
  • observational camera work
  • interviews
  1. View the video clip several times and study the above techniques.
  2. Write a 400-word review of the video clip for an online magazine and comment on how the filmmaker uses these film techniques to present points of view about the issue of inter-racial adoption. Use your review to encourage viewers to watch the entire film.

Further Resources


Go to DIY DOCO website

Read more stories and articles about Operation Babylift at Adopt Vietnam

Go to the Come Unity website