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[Tribeca '24] 'New Wave' review: Personal look back on the music and fashion that shaped a community

Movie Reviews

[Tribeca ’24] ‘New Wave’ review: Personal look back on the music and fashion that shaped a community

The importance of music and community.

New Wave is a documentary making its world premiere at Tribeca that goes into more than just the music genre. Filmmaker Elizabeth Ai looks back on what it meant to Vietnamese-American communities in America during the 1980s. It is a personal film that just happens to have plenty of Eurodisco and big hair.

There was a time when the Vietnam War cast a looming shadow over all pop culture in the United States. There was a deluge of books, television, and movies centered around it. Like many others, Ai’s family were refugees from the war, coming to the U.S. in 1975 in search of a better life. Things did not work out quite as planned, but it did lead to the discovery of new wave music.

Using archival footage and reenactments, New Wave showcases how the music was more than just a passing fad to the Vietnamese community. Sure, there were the highly danceable beats and outrageous fashion, but it also served as a way to bring people together. Interviews with the “Vietnamese Madonna” Lynda Trang Dai and DJ BPM add further insight and humor into Ai’s look back.

new wave

New Wave does lose its way at times, but it also has a personal feel that makes it a consistently entertaining watch. The music and clothes bring a sense of fun, while Ai’s story highlights a sense of family that is endearing. 

Tribeca Festival takes from June 5 – June 16. The full lineup can be found HERE.

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