Cinema and Media Studies Trinh T. Minh-ha
Yelizaveta Moss
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0260


Born in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1952 and raised in Saigon Trinh T. Minh-ha received her schooling in music composition in Saigon before immigrating to the United States in 1970 for her higher education. In addition to her filmmaking, she composes music; creates multimedia installations, publishes on literary and film theory, feminism, and postcolonialism; and teaches at the University of California, Berkeley’s Gender and Women’s Studies Department. Trinh’s essay, literary, and theoretical work has been written about extensively by academics, and analysis of her films and her filmmaking has been greatly influential in visual ethnography studies. Trinh’s films also have been favored by postcolonial, feminist, and essay-film theorists, with some resistance from theorists of African postcolonialism for her outsider perspective and some resistance from feminism theorists for her participation in the very models of narrative and representation that she works to challenge. In opposition to these criticisms, many theorists have written defenses of Trinh’s work and process. Trinh herself has also given interviews and written essays that acknowledge that her work necessarily incites these criticisms. Trinh’s films take the form of ethnographic documentary, political documentary, essay film, and allegorical feature film, and they travel between Africa, Asia, and North America. In her work, she revisits themes of postcolonialism and neocolonialism, translation, multiplicity of identity, feminism, filmmaking itself, and, in more recent years, the digital turn. Trinh’s films emphasize process and ambiguity over direct message, and so her films tend to be formally essayistic, analyzing or thinking through subjects and theories as they are presented. In this way, her films have often been described by critics as genre crossing and hybrid. Like other female filmmakers who aim to garner some control over their image and their professional reception, Trinh has republished her creative work (as still images, scripts, and installation programs) and select interviews in several collections. These books also provide select bibliographies of reviews, additional interviews, and articles on Trinh’s work.

Key Works by Theme

Trinh’s work has been received by several academic areas: documentary film, ethnographic study, gender and feminist theory, postcolonialism, and literary theory.

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