Student film gives Vietnam vets a much-belated welcome home PDF Print E-mail
Written by Paul Rossman, Gazette Staff Writer
Monday, 16 June 2008
NORTHERN CAMBRIA — The auditorium was pitch-black at Northern Cambria Middle School when a film lit up the movie-sized screen. Moments in, the first voice heard was that of Herman L. Fisher, who had a simple message for the nearly 140 people in attendance: “We never got a welcome home.”

More than 30 years after the Vietnam War ended, veterans received a welcome home of sorts Sunday night when a documentary titled “We Never Got the Welcome Home” premiered.

The project was written, produced and edited by 14 Northern Cambria students and was funded by a $10,000 grant from The History Channel. The students worked on the project since September and finished the documentary for the premiere minutes before the showing.

The documentary, which ran a little over one hour, featured interviews with more than 25 Vietnam veterans from western Pennsylvania, stories which were intertwined throughout the film with footage of the war from the Department of Defense.

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The project focused on the veterans’ backgrounds, their experiences in Vietnam and post-war re-adjustment period.

After placing advertisements in the local papers, the students traveled to Clymer, Ebensburg, Johnstown and Northern Cambria to conduct interviews with veterans who wished to tell their stories. The students also made two separate trips to Washington, once interviewing U.S. Rep. John Murtha, D-Johnstown, and the other to get footage of Rolling Thunder, a nonprofit organization whose main purpose is to publicize missing-in-action and prisoner-of-war issues.

“The knowledge I gained from this — you can’t get it in the classroom,” said Casey Contres, who served as one of the producers of the documentary.

Dr. Paul Douglas Newman, a professor of early American history at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown who served as a project adviser, said the students put in “thousands of hours” in producing the film.

The project essentially began after some of these same students were finishing a book last summer titled “As the Dust Settles: Revealing Those Seldom Seen,” which documented seven main issues of coal mining.

“It worked out great,” said Newman, who also served as adviser on the book. “We did it in six months.”

It was then that Deacon Ann Staples, the executive director of the Northern Cambria Coal Country Hangout, found a “Save Our History” grant from The History Channel.

“I thought, ‘This is for us,’” Staples said.

Staples approached Newman about the grant. Coincidentally, Newman had just learned of the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. combat death in Vietnam, Harry Cramer, who was from Johnstown.

“I thought, ‘Well, where’s their welcome home? Where’s their gratitude and all that kind of stuff?’” Newman said. “And there isn’t. These guys were ignored when they came home, and here we’re coming up on this anniversary and still nothing.”

With this in mind, they applied for the grant and received $10,000, the highest award. Newman said the money was used to buy computer and video editing equipment, and was used to fund the various expenses of the project.

Karen Bowman, a history teacher at Northern Cambria who also served as an adviser, said she didn’t handpick these students; rather, they volunteered to be on the project.

“This is a true team-building collaboration,” Bowman said. “They have figured out what their strengths are, they learned to rely on each other for their strengths, and it is a true professional-grade collaboration.”

After Newman initially meet with the students in September, and after watching several documentaries, the students decided on the format for the film.

“What they came up with was to come up with a series of questions we would ask every vet and allow them to tell their story,” Newman said. “The movie would have no narration, no text, no editing on our part other than fitting the interviews together and making a coherent story out of it — letting them tell their story.”

The next showing will be 7 p.m. July 16 at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center at Pitt-Johnstown. Admission is free.

But the students aren’t limiting themselves to only local showings. Contres said they plan to enter the documentary into several national film festivals, ranging from Los Angeles to New York City.

“We’re not done,” Newman said. “This is just the beginning of this story.”

Holland to screen documentary about deaf Vietnamese dancers

A documentary film called Noi Den (The Destination) about a hearing impaired Vietnamese dance troupe will be introduced at the 2007 “Deaf In The Pictures” Film Festival next month in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Noi Den has already been filmed in America, the Philippines and Singapore, and will be shown in Britain in December.

The documentary, directed by British filmmaker Paul Zetters under the sponsor-ship of the British Embassy in Vietnam, gives insight into the lives and professions of the Noi Den dance troupe in Hanoi.

The troupe was founded in 2002 by choreographer Le Vu Long and his wife, dancer Luu Thi Thu Lan.

Its members consist of ten deaf dancers who have overcome their disability to pursue the art of contemporary dance.

Noi Den toured Vietnam’s biggest cities in 2005 and 2006 and has been invited to perform in America.

This will be the second time the “Deaf In The Pictures” Film Festival has taken place. The first was also held in Amsterdam in 2003.

Reported by Lan Anh

Documentary filmmaker has passion for fashion

 

 

 

 

Nguyen Hai Anh is one of the few female directors in Viet Nam and has lensed 40 documentaries for HCMCity Television. Thu Huong talks to her about her latest, a five-part series on traditional costume.

Inner Sanctum: How did you become a documentary director?

I was the second runner-up in the entrance examination into Ha Noi College of Drama and Cinema when I was 17 years old. One year later, I won a scholarship for a seven-year-programme at Sankt Petersburg Institute for Theatre and Cinema. After having successfully gained my master degree, I spent three years working for Sankt Petersburg Television. I officially started working as a documentary director for TFS in 2000 after one year of unpaid co-operation with the studio.

Several months later, I was astounded when the Viet Nam Cinema Association’s Festival honoured me with its Silver Kite Award (the festival does not have a gold prize) for my documentary entitled Teacher Nguyen Van Xuan. What surprised me most was that TFS had submitted my work without letting me know about it. Admittedly, the documentary hadn’t been made in anticipation of entering that contest. Right after the documentary was screened, Xuan and his four-member family, who all suffered from mental illness, received help from philanthropists nationwide. This incident has strongly proved the great value brought by documentary filmmaking and has fuelled my desire to devote my entire life and career to this film genre.

Inner Sanctum: What ignited your curiosity for your documentary on Viet Nam costume history since the Hung King period?

Fashion is my special interest. I remember that at every party that I attended while I was studying abroad, my traditional Vietnamese dresses always attracted great admiration from my foreign friends. And I was further inspired when I saw how the traditional ao dai has been promoted for the past 10 years. Admittedly, I started searching for information and writing script five years ago.

Inner Sanctum: Could you give a brief introduction about its content, production procedure and the current filming process?

The desire to discover and record true representations of real objects and to provide information related to costume culture of Vietnamese people over the generations at a popular level, both directly and indirectly, has given birth to the documentary. It could be said that the film will present a general yet interesting panorama of Viet Nam’s unique and ancient arts and fine arts. On top of that, the work will examine currents that have had a great effect on cultural exchange in the country’s modern and ancient society.

We began filming in March of 2007, and at this point we have completed 80 per cent of our work. We will finish the initial process by October, and we expect to have a final product by early next year. The documentary’s anticipated release date is next summer.

Inner Sanctum: What makes In search of Vietnamese Costume differ from your other work?

This documentary is my brainchild and a labour of love as well. It has also been the cause of my worst headaches! I’ve never needed to travel so much and so far to collect information for filming. And for the first time, I sometimes become discouraged due to exhaustion and homesickness. Admittedly, producing a TV series requires female directors to be in good health and demands a great deal of flexibility. Filming this documentary has really been the biggest challenge I’ve ever had to overcome.

Inner Sanctum: Your name has always been associated with short documentaries, which normally last no more than 20 minutes. Why did you choose to develop this film into a TV-series? Is it a way of renewing yourself?

I don’t think changing screening time is a method to renew my work. It should be the topic and how I choose to deal with that topic that helps to renew me. Both the 20 minute documentaries and the five episode film, each episode lasts about 20 minutes, need new elements. I never cling to any special theme and I hate using familiar techniques while creating new films. Each documentary is a new creation and I encounter new challenges, which I find really motivating.

Inner Sanctum: You’re considered an investigator of Vietnamese folk and traditional culture. Why are you so interested in such topics?

Several people say that I always succeed with films which aim to paint human portraits, whereas some others conclude that I’m most successful at folklore. In fact, I never stick to anything in particular (as I’ve mentioned above). The reason is very simple. If I find a character or topic that is worthy of a documentary and can bring true social benefits, I will definitely use that character or topic. Moreover, I love investigating things that grab my attention even though I haven’t got a clue what to make of it. That’s the reason the themes I choose to explore tend to vary and differ from each other. This film isn’t an exception. Fashion has always been a passion of mine, since early childhood. I love it, however, I knew nothing about it. That’s why I decided to study it.

Inner Sanctum: Clothing habits are true expressions of culture. Have you ever thought that you’re being too ambitious by deciding to intertwine all the various dress cultures of a nation over the course of 4,000 years of complicated history in a TV series?

If I decide to do something, I am determined to complete the task at all costs. If I fall in love with something, I’ll love it wholeheartedly until the end. As a result, sometimes when I look back on my work, I realise that the theme that I chose to film was really a great hardship. I think I’m a bit bold. Anyway, we’ve already made it to over the half way mark of the filming process.

Inner Sanctum: What do you think are advantages and disadvantages of being a female director?

Flexibility, gentleness, and patience are the most striking advantages that female directors have over their male counterparts, especially when they have to interact with difficult partners or unapproachable topics. As a documentary-maker, I have to depend largely on my relationships in the real world in addition to observing my crew. For instance, while filming a documentary on espionage, I hunted for information from all possible sources and also tried to contact many different VIPs. Having a chance to talk with them would have been a problem if I hadn’t been flexible and patient, and successfully persuading military officials to provide information or interviews is very tough work! So there are those advantages. To successfully tackle difficult topics, a female director must also be determined and strong-willed, two characteristics that are associated with the male personality. Furthermore, female directors often have tighter schedules because of their womanly role in the family, not to mention they often have poorer stamina than their male co-workers.

Inner Sanctum: Which qualities do you think any documentary director must have?

Documentary-makers and certainly anyone working with any kind of social science should have a warm-heart and a sincere attitude. Their work must be based on good intentions for the work to contribute to vast or permanent social changes. Directing is a job consisting of collective arts, hence, it requires that the director have a comprehensive knowledge of many other kind of arts like dancing, theatrical art or photography. The most important quality in a director is a willingness to constantly update his/her social knowledge so that their work won’t die young.

Inner Sanctum: What’s your latest plan for the future?

Well, that’s my secret. I love randomness and surprising other people so could I keep it to myself? — VNS

 
10:29′ 04/10/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: HA 914215 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
A scene from the film.

VietNamNet Bridge – The US filmmakers have just screened the 56-minute film “The Last Ghost of War” about orange agent’s effect on Vietnam in the US.

 

The filmakers document the Vietnamese AO victims who are taken care of at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi MInh City.

Thirty years after the end of the Vietnam War, they are among several million victims of Agent Orange. In The Last Ghost of War, viewers meet the Vietnamese plaintiffs in a class action suit against 32 US chemical companies.

These victims are seeking compensation and justice.

 

The question is whether these dioxin laden herbicides chemical weapons. And if so, who should be held accountable in the wake of what was the largest chemical warfare operation in the US history?

 

This investigative documentary is a presentation of the Center for Asian American Media with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

 

This film was made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This film is a sponsored program of New York Foundation for the Arts.

 

In The Last Ghost of War, Vietnamese and American veterans, chemical workers, lawyers, scientists, and a military historian take us to this final battlefield.

The film, narrated by Kevin Kline and directed by Pham Quoc Thai and Janet Gardner, is shot on locations in Vietnam, France and the United States.

 

(Source: SGGP)


Recently, I watched a documentary in a DVD format that I found at Mead Public Library called “Hearts & Minds” which talks bout the U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Many people are interviewed, including Gen. William Westmoreland and Vietnam veterans, who each had a different perspective of the war. There is footage of Presidents Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson and Eisenhower, who states that the U.S. needed to keep access to resources in Vietnam, making military intervention necessary. He doesn’t mention an altruistic reason.

This documentary shows all facets of war and should therefore be rated “R” because of parts of the film where they show U.S. military men shooting Vietnamese men in the head even though they are captured and restrained. The Vietnamese are treated as subhumans. There are also scenes of American military men having sexual relations with Vietnamese prostitutes.

The lack of reverence for life that these passages depict is alarming. There are scenes of U.S. soldiers setting fire to the thatched roofs of the modest huts of the Vietnamese peasants while they are forced to watch their homes being destroyed. We see U.S. warplanes bombarding entire villages. The pilots reported that destroying these people’s homeland was just a job. There were other soldiers who talked about how they got a thrill from killing the “enemy.” However the price to pay for this thrill was depicted when U.S. veterans who had lost limbs were being fitted for plastic ones.

The film did an excellent job of showing the contrast of a comfortable American lifestyle with the utterly poor Vietnamese. And yet their lifestyle was ecologically more sustainable than ours. The beauty of Vietnam was breathtaking and yet bombs were dropped indiscriminately.

There is a passage explaining how Vietnam was under Chinese rule for several centuries and then France colonized Vietnam for 100 years. Just when the Vietnamese had earned their independence from French Imperialism in 1954, America took over.

Gen. Westmoreland has the irreverence to say that Oriental people don’t place a high value on life like we do. However, there are scenes of children suffering from the effects of napalm, of Vietnam families mourning their dead children, of U.S. planes spraying Vietnamese fields with Agent Orange, and of testimony reporting U.S. soldiers torturing Vietnamese.

This documentary shows the reality of war by including real scenes from the Vietnam War. It shows how we are indoctrinated from a young age to think there is something honorable about invading another country far away that has done us no harm. One soldier is asked if we have learned something from Vietnam.

I think that everyone should see this film and replace the Vietnamese faces with Iraqi ones. Maybe the natural beauty of the country will vary, but the ugliness of war stays the same. This film was the 1974 winner of the best documentary.

DEBBIE DESMOULIN

Sheboygan


G.I. dissenters in David Zeiger's documentary "Sir! No Sir!" The film which will be shown in Harwich Friday recounts the opposition to the Vietnam War that existed within the ranks of the United States Army at the time and features Harwich's Joe Bangert.

Film opens in New York today, Harwich on Friday

Special to CapeCodToday by John Bangert

It isn't often that an awarding winning documentary film opens in the Harwich Community Center a couple days after its New York debut, but this film happens to feature local resident Joe Bangert who was active in an anti-war movement of a generation ago which is fostering the same resistance to war today

"Sir! No Sir! ", a documentary film about the GI movement during the Vietnam War, will have a very special screening this Friday, April 21, at the Harwich Community Center 100 Oak Street (across from Harwich High School) at 7:00 p.m.  This special film screening and will be followed by a discussion led by Joe Bangert, of Brewster who is featured in the film.

Two weeks ago US Army Iraq Veteran, Andrew Sapp, who just came back from his tour of Iraq, also spoke out against this wrongful war here in Harwich.

According to a story in today's Harwich Oracle,

The film, which includes Joe Bangert of Harwich in its cast, reveals the untold story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam. Variety called it "the story of one of the most vibrant and widespread upheavals of the 1960s – one that had a profound impact on American society, yet has been virtually obliterated from the collective memory of that time… Bangert served in Vietnam in the Marines, and testified at the Winter Soldier Investigation, a hearing organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War… "America went through a choke, because they didn't want to believe that these things occurred in the name of the American people, supposedly supporting freedom and liberation and democracy throughout the world," Bangert said. "And there was this terrible slaughter, this terrible inane slaughter."

The New York Times review of the film today said,

In his smart, timely documentary about the G.I. Movement, "Sir! No Sir!," Mr. Zeiger takes a look at how the movement changed and occasionally even rocked the military from the ground troops on up. On one level the film serves as a corrective to the rah-rah rhetoric about Vietnam in such schlock entertainments as the 1980's "Rambo" franchise.

The review a few days before in The Village Voice was even stronger in its recommendation,

Super Troopers
A Vietnam war doc with powerful contemporary parallels

Sir! No Sir! never mentions the words Iraq or Afghanistan. It doesn't have to. Unseen and unremarked upon, those bloody venues nonetheless inhabit the entire 85 minutes of David Zeiger's impassioned documentary like some deadly, creeping virus for which there's no cure…

Sir! No Sir! recalls the follies and failures of one American war, but disturbing parallels to the one now being waged by the Bush administration are inescapable. For Zeiger, who as a young activist helped organize demonstrations of veterans against the war, the time is right to remember. To that end, he has assembled a collection of grizzled servicemen who have plenty to say about what happened to them. The myth of the silent vet reluctant to talk about his war experience goes up in smoke here.

This film "Sir, No Sir"! is sponsored locally by the following.

Winner of several awards

Winner of several Best Documentary awards at film festivals across the U.S., the film tells the little known story of the anti-war movement inside of the military in the words of the GI's themselves.  Alternating with historic footage are present day interviews with the veterans.  Their candid reflections are extremely relevant to contemporary events at the same time that they provide a needed revision to the distorted and incomplete view most Americans have of the controversial conflict that ended 30-some years ago.

  • Watch the trailer here.