This winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Bui's poetic film weaves together several stories from the new Vietnam--each told from the perspective of natives who've missed out on the benefits of Western reforms. They include vignettes of a young country girl hired to pick white lotuses for a poet ravaged by leprosy; a kindhearted cyclo driver who falls for a proud young prostitute; a young orphan who wanders the streets of Saigon selling Zippo lighters to tourists.
Keitel plays a Marine who scours the city looking for the daughter he left behind during the war. Referring to the lucky "haves" around them, the prostitute wryly comments, "We live in their shadows." Under Bui's guiding hand, these characters have stepped into the light.