The Boat

The epic and tragic story of the 16-year-old Mai, whose parents make the decision to send her alone on a boat to Australia after the fall of Saigon.

The Story

The story of the 16-year-old girl Mai resonates with the foundational narrative of the Australia-Vietnamese diaspora, including that of author Nam Le’s own family. Similarly, New York based Australian illustrator Matt Huynh’s parents left Vietnam for Australia in the years following the fall of Saigon.

About the project

Australian broadcaster SBS released The Boat in 2015. The interactive graphic novel was part of their multi-platform recognition of the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and 40 years of Vietnamese resettlement in Australia. The Boat unites hand drawn artwork, animation, text, sound and archive to explore this important moment in history through an innovative mode of storytelling that pushes the existing boundaries of the graphic novel form.

Illustrator Matt Huynh says:

“The Boat is the most urgent and immediate comic I’ve ever made – a work of a kind I’ve never quite seen before and a unique chance to engage an issue so entangled with my own life. It’s a work that deals not in metaphor or analogy, not exclusively fiction or history and impossible to segment artist from subject. This resulting work is proof of my life, luck, of a country’s compassion for people in the most vulnerable of circumstances over 40 years ago and our urgent, unavoidable connection to today’s asylum seekers and refugees.”



The Sound and vision of The Boat (SBS)

About the creators

Matt Huynh is a Vietnamese-Australian artist based in Brooklyn, New York. His comics, illustrations and interactive graphic novels are informed by sumi-e painting and shodo calligraphy. His clients include the New York Times, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Lucky Peach and Adobe. Creative Sydney Festival named him one of Sydney’s most innovative cultural contributors for his graphic novel work. His work appears in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection and his comics have been presented on the Sydney Opera House stage.

Nam Le was born in Vietnam and raised in Australia. His first collection of short stories, The Boat was translated into 14 languages and received over a dozen major awards in Australia, America and Europe, including the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award, the PEN/Malamud Award and the Dylan Thomas Prize.


Matt Huynh – Adaptation and illustration
Nam Le – Short story
Kylie Boltin – Producer
Matt Smith – Interaction developer and animator
Sam Petty (Animal Kingdom, The Rover) – Sound designer
Produced by SBS Online.

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