Vietnam dioxin story wins best documentary at New York film fest

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The poster for "The Tale of An Phuc House"

A film about the daily lives of Vietnamese Agent Orange victims in Ho Chi Minh City won the top prize for documentaries at the New York City International Film Festival Friday.

"The Tale of An Phuc House" by Bulgarian director Ivan Tankushev beat out four other entries to win Best Feature Documentary at the fourth annual edition of the film fest.

Tankushev, known for his work on animation shows such as "Arthur" and "Family Guy," also wrote the script.

The documentary, which was produced by Canadia's Babel Entertainment and Vietnam's Créa TV, was filmed in Vietnam between late 2011 and March of this year.

The 91-minute film depicts the life of Mr. Quang and the 20 young adults under his care at An Phuc House, which he founded in 2006 to help provide a home and create jobs for victims of the chemical warfare used by the US during the Vietnam War.

An Phuc means "peace and happiness" in Vietnamese.

Despite their physical limitations, the young victims' lives are full of love, dignity and pride, according to a post by the festival website.

The 54-year-old director, who is married to a Vietnamese woman, said he would donate all proceeds from the film to An Phuc and orphanages in Ho Chi Minh City.

Other contenders included two US films "Girl Rising" about the strength of the human spirit and the power of education, "Jihad in America: the Grand Deception" about terrorism; the UK film "The Gun, the Cake & the Butterfly," about the trials and tribulations of love; and the German-Israeli film "My German Children," a multi-generational look at the makings of identity.

"The Tale of An Phuc House" premiered on June 17 during the festival and resulted in promises from many attendees to financially support its protagonists.

Chuck Palazzo, a former US veteran and now a member of the Agent Orange Action Group dedicated to seeking medical, financial, ecological and legal assistance for Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange, said in a post on the film's blog that the award was "a huge win for the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange.

"This is such an important achievement for all of us and will raise awareness of the ongoing plight of the victims to a new level," Palazzo said.

The US Army sprayed nearly 80 million liters of herbicides and defoliants containing 366 kilograms of the highly toxic chemical dioxin over 30,000 square miles of southern Vietnam between 1961 and 1971.

Up to 4-8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to dioxin, according to the Vietnam Red Cross. 

Many of the victims have died, but their descendants are still being born with deformities and diseases.

The Vietnam Red Cross estimates that up to one million Vietnamese people are disabled or have health problems due to Agent Orange.

Experts have also identified at least 28 dioxin-contaminated hotspots within the country that need clearance.

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