Wednesday 21 October 2015, 7:00 PM, Frontline Club
A chance to see the harrowing and moving documentary from director Rory Kennedy that explores the nearly-unbelievable behind-the-scenes story of the evacuation of the US embassy during the dying days of the Vietnam war. Last Days in Vietnam benefits from hearing from both American and Vietnamese (North and South) voices, as they describe the lunacy, bravery and tragedy of those weeks, as hordes of military and civilians either tried to flee the country, or, in the case of the North Vietnamese, finally dominate it.
Some of the most gripping testimony comes from those Americans who were in effect defying their own chain of command in order to rescue those Vietnamese they knew would be in danger if left behind. It is hard not to hear these stories and wonder of the fate of those Afghan and Iraqi civilians who aided Western forces during the war on terror. Defeat in all its inglorious reality is brought home through archive images and footage of overloaded choppers on rooftops, aircraft being pushed off of carrier decks, and burning piles of millions of dollars worth of embassy money. A sad but unforgettable reminder of how wars always leave people behind, and how there is no glory in losing.
Last Days in Vietnam chronicles the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War as the North Vietnamese Army closed in on Saigon. In April of 1975, the North Vietnamese Army was advancing on Saigon as the South Vietnamese resistance was crumbling. Approximately 5,000 Americans remained, with roughly 24 hours to get out. Their South Vietnamese allies, co-workers, and friends faced certain imprisonment and possible death if they remained behind, yet there was no official evacuation plan in place.
With the clock ticking and the city under fire, American officers on the ground faced a moral dilemma: follow official policy and evacuate U.S. citizens and their dependents only, or ignore orders and save the men, women, and children they had come to value and love during their years in Vietnam.
Over the last days in Vietnam, with the clock ticking and the city under fire, 135,000 South Vietnamese managed to escape with help from a number of Americans who took matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many people as possible. Through remarkable archive footage and candid present day interviews, director Rory Kennedy reconstructs the evacuation efforts with sensitivity and concern for accurate historical record.
Last Days in Vietnam is an Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature and will premiere on PBS America at 8pm on Sunday 1 November (Sky 534 & Virgin Media 276).
This screening will be followed by a Q&A with executive producer Mark Samels.
Director/Producer: Rory Kennedy
Producer: Kevin McAlester
Executive Producer: Mark Samels