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Saturday, June 15
3:00 PM - 4:45 PM

Landmark E-Street Cinema

555 11th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004

New Wave


Elizabeth Ai

Executive Producers

Simu Liu, Diane Quon, Geeta Gandbhir, C.Y. LEE


Rachel Sine, Elizabeth Ai


Hee-Jae Park, Samuel Rong, Christina Sun Kim


Bryant Swanstrom

Filmmaker Elizabeth Ai embarks on a project to tell a story of joy and youthful defiance found in a musical phenomenon in the 1980s known to Vietnamese American teens as “new wave.” In the throbbing heart of Orange County, California, this counterculture movement takes the youth by storm, becoming a sanctuary for rebellious teens. However, as she delves into the lives of family members and key figures in the new wave scene, she uncovers more than just music and fashion.  The upbeat, danceable tunes mask deep, buried traumas—memories of abandonment, broken dreams, and unfulfilled expectations that have shaped her community.

The joyful memories of her uncles and aunts sneaking out to dance at raucous night clubs clash with her own painful childhood, haunted by her mother’s abandonment. As the filmmaker digs deeper, the excavation becomes an emotional journey, unraveling mysteries that touch on cultural identity, generational trauma, and the Vietnam War’s lasting impact. The exploration transforms from a love letter to her community into a cathartic process for the filmmaker. By confronting these buried emotions, the film takes us on a soulful journey that binds wounds, celebrates resilience, and offers new beginnings.

Director, New Wave

Elizabeth Ai produces branded content for companies such as National Geographic, ESPN, and VICE. Additionally, she produces independent features such as documentaries Dirty Hands: The Art & Crimes of David Choe (2008) and A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem (2019), as well as feature narratives, Saigon Electric (2011) and Ba (2024). During her tenure at VICE, she created a cannabis cooking show, Bong Appétit (2014). She just completed her feature directorial debut, New Wave (2024). She and her films are supported by Berlinale, Center for Asian American Media, Cinereach, Film Independent, Firelight Media, Ford Foundation, Sundance, and Tribeca.