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by Karen Pecota

Ham Tran, Vietnam | USA 2022

The veteran Vietnamese-American filmmaker, Ham Tran, also a Sundance Film Festival Alumni, returns to the festival, to showcase his latest family film in Sci-Fi form with MAIKA, THE GIRL FROM ANOTHER GALAXY.

Born in Saigon, Vietnam, Tran immigrated to the U.S. through the Orderly Departure Program when he was eight years old. His films share the struggles of the victims and refugees of the Vietnam War and is honored for his efforts to make truth telling relatable and memorable. In 2003, while earning his MFA from UCLA's film and television program, his thesis film, THE ANNIVERSARY, was a semi-finalist for an Academy Award for a Best Live Action Short. Years later, Tran was chosen to showcase his first feature film JOURNEY FROM THE FALL at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. His artistic talents are far reaching and as a recipient of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in 2009, Tran continues to use the moving picture for storytelling to cross cultural audiences of varied genres worldwide.

The 1970s television show from the Czech Republic called “The Girl who fell out of the Blue Sky” found a new home twenty years later with a large Vietnamese audience in the 1990s. Approached to write, direct, and produce an updated version of the storyline, Tran recalls, "Upon reading the storyline, I felt an immediate connection to the main character. My mother had recently passed away at that time and I was having a very difficult time processing my loss." Tran was compelled to recreate the narrative as a feature film for children, just in case, there might be a child that would need encouragement to move forward from suffering a grave loss.


Difficult connecting to his father after the loss of his mother, eight-year-old Hung struggles in his day-to-day existence. Hung's father, wrestling with his own grief at the loss of his loving wife is not confident his parenting skills are enough for Hung. Hard times continue for Hung and his father because of a brutal landlord causing their friends to move away. Feelings of abandonment overwhelm the two on many fronts.

Hung often escapes to his apartment rooftop and looks to the moon to ask his mother for guidance while wallowing in his woes. One particular evening, a media shower occurs and something bright and beautiful lands in a nearby lake. Hung is in awe of the brilliance of the array of color that he rushes to the scene on his bicycle to get a closer look. Hung comes upon an alien in a spaceship. It resembles a girl about his age. Hung jumps in the water to help her but finds it difficult to communicate until she is able to adjust to Hung's language.

Hung discovers that her spaceship from her home called Maika, broke down while searching for a lost friend. He understands what losing someone is like and commits to helping her so she can accomplish her mission and return home. Hung's act of kindness proves to be an adventure of a lifetime as he encounters thrilling escapades that encompass danger, heartfelt laughter, and personal reward; and, with the help of his alien friend Hung encounters a renewed hope that his future will be full of promise.