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Life of legendary Vietnamese spy set for screen

The life and career of late Vietnamese legendary spy Pham Xuan An will come alive on the screen thanks to a film project launched by BHD, a private film agency in HCM City. 

BHD and American historian-writer Larry Berman have signed a contract to produce a feature film based on the author’s book Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent.

Berman’s book was released in 2007. It was translated into Vietnamese and has been reprinted several times by leading publishers. 

American historian-writer Larry Berman (right) and Vietnamese legendary spy Pham Xuan An. Photo from the Facebook of Larry Berman

BHD invited Vietnamese-American film director, screenwriter and producer Charlie Nguyen to join the project. 

To prepare for filming, Nguyen met with Berman. 

“I’m very interested to work with producer BHD and Larry Berman on the film about spy An,” said Nguyen, who has 30 years of experience in the industry. 

Berman wrote on his Facebook page: “Charlie [Nguyen] and I share a vision for the arc of Pham Xuan An’s life and the power of his life story. I am confident that Charlie will find the best way to tell that story. I am also excited to serve as a 'creative consultant' for the project. Dreams do come true!” 

General An (right) and General Vo Nguyen Giap. File Photo

“I have always believed and dreamed that the story of Pham Xuan An’s life would be made into a major motion picture.”

Berman is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Davis.

He has written several books on the American war in Vietnam, including Planning a Tragedy: The Americanization of the War in Vietnam and Lyndon Johnson’s War: The Road to Stalemate in Vietnam.

He visited Vietnam several times to write his book on An, and later returned to introduce his book and talk about the spy. In 2017, he visited and spoke about his book and An with 200 students from the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities.

He told tales of the intelligence agent’s life and his dream of peace and friendship between Vietnam and the US. 


General Pham Xuan An, also known as X6, Tran Van Trung and Hai Trung, was born in 1927 in Dong Nai Province. 

General Pham Xuan An, Vietnamese legendary spy during the American war in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of the General’s family

He began to take part in revolutionary activities in the early 1950s and was inducted into the Communist party in 1953.

He was sent to study journalism in the US to create cover to penetrate deeper into the Sài Gòn military and administration.

After returning to Vietnam, An worked for Reuters, Time magazine and the New York Herald Tribune, while providing intelligence to the Vietnamese army fighting against the US invasion of South Vietnam and the Sai Gon administration.

He sent out 498 reports and documents to the revolutionary base, which were so accurate that General Vo Nguyen Giap, a leader of the Central Military Commission of Ho Chi Minh Campaign, in 1975, joked, “We are now in the US war room.”

After the war, An was awarded the title "Hero of the People’s Armed Forces" by the Vietnamese Government.

In 2017, a documentary film featuring the agent’s life was broadcast on HCM City Television.  

The 12-episode series, Huyền Thoại Về Tướng Tình Báo Phạm Xuân Ẩn (Legendary Spy Gen Pham Xuan An), was directed by female artist Le Phong Lan. 

Lan talked and worked with Berman before shooting. 

“In my documentary about the work and life and revolutionary activities of General An, who worked as an intelligence agent for our country during the American War and a reporter for the US media, my staff and I tried our best to understand the history and depict it realistically,” said Lan. 

Lan and her staff spent three years filming. They spent two years writing and editing the script, reading many Vietnamese and foreign books, newspapers, and documents related to events during the 1950s and 1970s.

During filming, they unearthed facts and myths that shed light on the personalities and silent contributions of An, who died in 2006, and other Communist party members.

“Before making the documentary, we had little knowledge about war or politics. We later gained many lessons,” said Lan, director of Bản Sắc Việt Studio, a private film company in HCM City. 

“Through my film, I want young audiences to care more for life and peace. I believe that in war, people see love.” 

Source: Vietnam News

American author to speak about Vietnamese spy’s mysterious life

American author to speak about Vietnamese spy’s mysterious life

"The Arc of Phạm Xuân Ẩn’s Mysterious Life" is the title of a talk to be given by American author Larry Berman from 7pm to 8.30pm on October 21 at Salon Saigon on 6D Ngo Thoi Nhiem Street in District 3.


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