An Orange County director brings a girl from another galaxy home to local theaters

Ham Tran
Director Ham Tran agreed to take on a movie called “Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy” when a studio presented it after his mother died.
(Courtesy of East Films)

When writer and director Ham Tran lost his mother in 2018, he wasn’t much in the mood to make films. The Vietnamese American had grown up in Santa Ana before heading off to college in 1992 and had made six films, including “Journey From the Fall” and “How to Fight in Six Inch Heels,” but grief stemmed his motivation. Then a local studio came to him with an outline they insisted he read.

“I was grieving, but they said you should try to work and make films and get your mind off of things,” said Tran. “They said just read the synopsis. It was just a concept.”

The outline was for a movie called “Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy.” The story begins with a character named Hung, an 8-year-old boy who has recently lost his mother. Tran connected with the story immediately.

“He meets an alien girl and through the process of trying to find her long lost friend and get her way home, she helps him fix everything that is broken in his life and helps him find new friends,” said Tran. “When I read that, I was like, I know this kid. I can relate to this kid.”

"Maika, the Girl from Another Galaxy" premiered at Sundance and is directed by Ham Tran.
“Maika, the Girl from Another Galaxy” premiered at Sundance and is directed by Ham Tran.
(Courtesy of East Films)

“Maika” is based on a Czechoslovakian children’s television program from the 1970s called “Spadla z oblakov,” or “She Fell from the Blue Sky.” The show depicts an alien girl named Maijk, who crash lands on Earth from another planet.

“For some reason, it found its audience in Vietnam in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It would screen on Vietnamese television and the kids went wild,” said Tran.

The show was something of a phenomenon in Vietnam, with children requesting the bowl haircut that Maijk wore and parents even naming their daughters Maika. One of the producers of the film was a fan of the show and always dreamed of doing a Vietnamese version.

Tran said his film resonates for many of the same reasons the original TV show did. “Vietnamese children didn’t have a lot of heroes to look up to. A lot of the television is made for adults,” said Tran. “Even currently, a lot of the films are made for 18-year-olds to early 30s. The children’s audience has really been overlooked.”

“Maika” premiered at 2022 Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and was released in Orange County last month.

After a positive response, the film was confirmed for a second week of screenings in Orange County movie theaters.

Tran also directed the dubbed version of the film, which is screening at Regal Garden Grove. The dubbed version is voiced by Asian American actors, with Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja voicing Maika. Well Go USA Entertainment, a theatrical and home entertainment distribution label, funded the dubbed version.

“Well Go, when they bought this film, they really believed that this film can be enjoyed by people of all cultures,” said Tran. “They were the ones that gave us the initial funds to make the dub, which is unheard of.”

"Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy" premiered at Sundance and is directed by Ham Tran.
(Courtesy of East Films)

A Vietnamese family sci-fi film is also unheard of, though Tran said that doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience for it.

“There are hardly any Vietnamese films that get booked in American cinemas, let alone showcasing kids,” said Tran. “Kids also need figures to look up to and to feel like their voice is being represented.”

“Maika” can be viewed at AMC Orange 30 and Regal Garden Grove.

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