‘The Boat’ is an interactive online graphic novel about escape after the Vietnam War. Written as a short story by Nam Le, the storyline centres around a teenage refugee Mai who is sent on the boat by her parents after the fall of Saigon. New York-based Australian artist Matt Huynh (whose parents fled Vietnam to Australia) created the illustrations using traditional Vietnamese bamboo calligraphy brush, paper and Sumi ink. These were then transformed by Matt Smith to impressively convey the depth of the story’s message on a screen. To top it off, Sam Petty engineered the incredibly realistic and even haunting sound effects, creating a true exploration of history using superb innovative storytelling. The entire project was produced by Australian broadcasting company SBS in commemoration of Vietnamese forty years resettlement in Australia.
The story is divided into six chapters, embedded with either manual or auto-scrolling function. The plot is immersed with four-side stories and archival content, celebrating captivating narration topped with important historical context. While ‘The Boat’ slightly reminds us of ‘The Vanishing Game’ by Land Rover, it presents a more unique combination of traditional and modern art forms. Here the strong narrative is kept at the center of attention and the innovative technology used for the subtle illustrations is realized in moderation, as it does not take over the story itself. Moreover, ‘The Boat’ introduces a different take on historical references of refugees and asylum seekers, which are unquestionably relevant today.