New Wave – Director Elizabeth Ai

Filmmaker Elizabeth Ai first feature film, NEW WAVE debut embarks on a project to tell a story of joy and youthful defiance as  she explores a musical phenomenon in the 1980s known to Vietnamese American teens as  new wave. As she delves into the lives of family members and icons of the new wave scene, including Lynda Trang Dai, she uncovers much more than just music and fashion. In the heart of Orange County, California, this counterculture movement takes the youth by storm, becoming a sanctuary for rebellious teens.  The joyful memories of her uncles and aunts sneaking out to this underground scene 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. Director Elizabeth Ai (Saigon Electric, Dirty Hands: The Arts & Crimes of David Choe) joins us to talk about how her own exploration became a love letter to her community, and why the film became a soulful journey that has help herself and other healed old wounds, celebrate the resilience of a community and pointed to a positive way forward and screening at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

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About the filmmaker – Elizabeth Ai is a Chinese-Vietnamese-American Los Angeles based Emmy award-winning producer. She writes, directs, and produces independent narratives as well as branded content for companies such as National Geographic, ESPN, and VICE. She produced documentary features; DIRTY HANDS: THE ART & CRIMES OF DAVID CHOE (2008), on the titled artist after his prison release and before his meteoric rise and A WOMAN’S WORK: THE NFL’S CHEERLEADER PROBLEM (2019), which examines wage theft and exploitation of the only visible NFL women. Additionally, she produced SAIGON ELECTRIC (2011), a feature narrative set in Vietnam’s world of breakdancing. During her tenure at VICE, she created the original pilot for BONG APPÉTIT (2014), which got picked up for series on Viceland. She’s currently directing and producing two in-progress feature documentaries and has a slate of narratives in development. She’s a fellow of Berlin Talent Campus, Film Independent, Sundance, and Tribeca. Her film projects are supported by California Humanities, Firelight Media, Knight Foundation, and ITVS. She received her B.A. from the University of Southern California. For more go to:



“New Wave puts its ear right next next to the bass drum, as it were, and discerns, not just the rhythm, but the culture and the people who made it possible.” – Peter Martin, ScreenAnarchy
“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” – Nathaniel Muir, AIPT
“Focus on Vietnamese teens’ Americanization through a genre of 1980’s popular music is entertaining. Adds to insight on immigrant experience contemporary awareness of the mental health impacts on both generations of the Vietnam War and long hours at work.” – Nora Lee Mandel, Maven’s Nest