Last Days in Vietnam ****1/2
Like many people of my generation, the Vietnam War was a major part of my late adolescence and young adulthood. For at least 10 years, rarely did a day go by without it occupying some part of my thinking about politics, about war, about my country, about my own role vis-a-vis the war. (I chose to go into the Peace Corps as a way of serving my country and followed that with high school teaching.)
Thus, I thought I knew a good deal about many of the aspects of that war, including the final days of the conflict.
And so I was quite surprised recently when I saw Rory Kennedy’s Last Days in Vietnam.
Know that this absorbing documentary does not take a position about the war.
What it does do, and what it does very well, is exactly what the title implies — it informs the viewer about what happened in Saigon (and to a lesser degree in Washington) in the events leading up to and including its conclusion in 1975.
Even if you think you know or remember that period, I suspect you will find, as I did, that there is much you never knew. Plus, what you thought you knew was not necessarily what actually happened.
I won’t add any spoilers, but no matter where you stood or stand on the war, no matter your views about our role, I think you’ll find Last Days in Vietnam well worth an hour and a half of your time. There are scenes that will remain in your mind and individuals that you will admire, and some you won’t.
Largely, the documentary uses film from that time period (much never previously shown) and commentary by individuals who were there to inform us about what actually took place in those final chaotic days in Saigon in 1975.
Although it is almost 40 years since these events occurred, there is much to learn and much to consider as a result of this film.
Additionally, though it was not within the scope of what director Rory Kennedy set out to show, it left me with wanting to know more, specifically the views, the thinking, and the feelings of the ordinary South Vietnamese who were rescued and those who were not.
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DC Shorts – Film Festival: This film fest continues for another four or five days, until Sept. 21. One possibility to consider: On Sat. (20th) & Sun. (21st), you can see The Best of DC Shorts in two separate 90 minute presentations. Check out my earlier post or go directly to their website for more information.