2014 Sundance Docs in Focus: LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM

last days in vietnamThis week’s profiles end by wrapping up the first half of the Documentary Premieres: Rory Kennedy returns to Park City with LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, a chronicle of the eleventh hour withdrawal of the US and its allies from Saigon.

Sundance Program Description:

During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. With the specter of a Communist victory looming and only a skeleton crew of diplomats and military operatives still in the country, the United States prepares to withdraw. As they begin to realize the reality of certain imprisonment and possible death of their South Vietnamese allies, American diplomats and soldiers confront a moral quandary: obey White House orders to evacuate only U.S. citizens, or risk being charged with treason and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, heroes emerge as a small handful of Americans take matters into their own hands.

Renowned Sundance Film Festival veteran Rory Kennedy dares to reopen the books on a war that scarred our national psyche. Chronicling a story few of us know, Kennedy’s potent documentary may both shock you and restore your faith in humanity.

Some Background:
Kennedy has been to Sundance several times, directing the Emmy-nominated ETHEL (2012), THE FENCE (2010), GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB (2007), and AMERICAN HOLLOW (1999), and producing BOBBY FISCHER AGAINST THE WORLD (2011), SHOUTING FIRE (2009), and THE EXECUTION OF WANDA JEAN (2002). Joining her as producer is Keven McAlester, also a Sundance alum as producer of THE FENCE; while American Experience’s Mark Samels serves as executive producer, also in the same role for fellow Documentary Premieres title FREEDOM SUMMER, and an alum as as executive producer or senior producer of FREEDOM RIDERS, WOUNDED KNEE, EARTH DAYS (2009), EMMETT TILL, GUERRILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST (2004, under its original title NEVERLAND), THE FIGHT (2004), and THE PILL (2003); with his colleague Sharon Grimberg as Senior Producer (her past Park City credits also include FREEDOM RIDERS, WOUNDED KNEE, GUERRILLA, and THE FIGHT). Renowned cinematographer Joan Churchill shot the film, counting among her past Sundance credits CITIZEN KOCH (2013), HOME OF THE BRAVE (2004), BIGGIE AND TUPAC (2002), TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES (2000), ASYLUM (1992), TAKEOVER (1991), LILY TOMLIN (1987); while editor Don Kleszy cut the project, represented at past festivals by PANDORA’S PROMISE (2013), EARTH DAYS (2009), and GUERRILLA.

Why You Should Watch:
Kennedy captures the dramatic evacuation from multiple perspectives, skillfully interweaving little-seen archival footage with reflective interviews with participants who were on the ground back in 1975. The audience gains a palpable sense of the high stakes faced as safety was sought from the impending takeover of the city, and of the difficult choices that had to be made by those in command – choices with consequences felt to the present day.

More Info:
Check out the film’s trailer. For more on the doc, visit its website and Facebook page. As they become available, I’ll link to Kennedy’s Meet the Artist Sundance video profile and to her Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2014 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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