Stephane Gauger, a Vietnamese American director known for his work in films including “Owls and Sparrows” and “Saigon Electric,” died Wednesday of heart failure. He was 48.
According to his half-sister, Anh Nguyen, 55, Gauger “died doing what he loved.” A friend found him dead, in his room at home in Vietnam, editing his movie.
Earlier this week, Gauger went out to celebrate with friends after the last shooting of his film, Nguyen said. The friends reported that he felt a pain in his chest and said he would go home to rest. He didn’t show up for work the next day.
Gauger left Vietnam with his parents and siblings in 1973 at age 3. The family stayed in Guam for two years before relocating to San Diego in 1975. The family moved to Houston, then resettled in Orange County, Calif., in the 1980s. He was a graduate of Cal State Fullerton.
“I talked to him in December and told him to have a check-up since he had a high cholesterol level,” Nguyen said.
The news of Gauger’s passing stunned family and friends.
Anderson Le, a close friend and film producer who worked with Gauger on several projects, said, “Stephane was a decent man who always offered help whenever he could, even though he was already an accomplished film director in his own right. He loved being Vietnamese and celebrated the culture through film and the lives he touched personally and through his films.”
Gauger also was a generous philanthropist. He helped fundraised for ASSORV, an association dedicated to the education of and aid to Vietnamese orphans.
Ysa Le, co-director of Viet Film Fest, said, “Stephane was one of the Vietnamese American pioneer filmmakers who sat on the film festival’s screening committee in 2015 and participated in many filmmaking panels at Viet Film Fest through the years. He took on different roles in many film projects from being a gaffer, cinematographer, script writer, actor and director. He will be dearly missed.”
He is survived by his mother, To Thi Han Gauger; brother James Gauger; half brothers Tran To Binh, Tran To Bach, Tran To Bao, Tran Ngoc Bieu, Jean Gauger and Albert Andrews; and half-sisters Anh Nguyen and Tran Ngoc Thien Anh.