Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Last Days in Vietnam": Riveting documentary by Rory Kennedy about the final failure of the war that defined my generation


Rory Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam” documents, with somewhat faded news footage, the fall of Vietnam in 1975 and the efforts of the US, especially through its ambassador, to evacuate as many South Vietnamese civilians as possible from the roof of the US Embassy building on the last night, April 29. 
 
When Nixon signed the peace accords in January 1973, he added a promise that the US would return if the North Vietnamese didn’t honor the agreement. When Nixon resigned because of Watergate in August 1974, the North Vietnamese felt emboldened, and began an invasion in March 1975.  The North Vietnamese had lists of South Vietnamese civilians whom they considered “anti-Communist” and often butchered then during the invasion.  After taking over South Vietnam, the North Vietnamese sent many civilians to “reeducation camps.”
   
The film depicts the behind-the-scenes activity of the Ford Administration, which was quite bumbling and finally broke its promises to get everybody out of the embassy.
    
The behavior of the North Vietnamese anticipates the Khmer Rouge, as depicted in Rolabd Joffe's 1984 film “The Killing Fields” with Sam Waterston. 
   
It’s striking to me that this war was what the draft was all about.  I went into the Army in February 1968, right after Tet, but was able to use my graduate school education to avoid Vietnam and combat. 
   
   
The official site is here
     
The film was released directly by PBS American Experience.  I saw it late Saturday at Landmark E Street in Washington DC.  Many shows sold out.  

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