The Record: Documentary on Vietnamese orphans has local touch

Robert Ballard of the University of Waterloo holds a promotional poster from a soon to be released documentary about a massive airlift of orphans out of Vietnam after the the war.By Frances Barrick, Record staff

Wed Jan 12 2011

He’s a University of Waterloo professor who is featured prominently in a documentary about the 1975 evacuation of thousands of orphans from war torn Vietnam.

Now Robert Ballard has arranged for the film, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, to be shown Jan. 22 at the Princess Twin cinema in Waterloo.

“A lot of people are interested in international adoptions and are intrigued by our story” and that led to this showing, Ballard said.

Ballard was just three weeks old when he and thousands of other Vietnamese orphans were airlifted during an American-led evacuation to protect the children from the impending threat of the Communist regime.

The orphans were adopted by families in the United States, Canada and Australia.

In their own voices, this movie tells the story of some of these Vietnamese adoptees growing up in America where they faced racism and being associated with an unpopular war.

Ballard is featured not only as a Vietnamese adoptee, but the film tells the story of the trials and tribulations he and his wife encountered as they tried to adopt a baby boy from Vietnam.

They were living in the United States when their plans to adopt fell through as the U.S. government ended its adoption program with Vietnam over allegations of baby selling, bribery and false documents.

In July 2008, the couple moved to Waterloo and started the adoption process again. Last May, they adopted Jayden, now 19 months, from an orphanage in Vietnam.

“Anyone involved in adoptions would be interested” in this film, Ballard said.

The documentary will screen at the Princess Twin at 46 King St. N. on Jan. 22 from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Although admission is free, a ticket is required. The event is being held as a fundraiser for the Vietnam Education Society, a Canadian-based non-profit group that builds schools in Vietnam.

To reserve a seat and or make a donation go to

After the show, a discussion will be held featuring Ballard and his wife, Sarah Ballard, and Jared Rehberg, a cast member and the film’s associate producer.

The film coincides with a panel discussion on Jan. 21 at the University of Waterloo starting at 6:30 p.m. The panellists include three adult adoptees from Vietnam and Korea.

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