Last Days in Vietnam (2014)
October 31, 2019 10:12 PM - Subscribe

During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people desperately attempt to escape.

NYTimes: Perhaps the most striking thing about “Last Days in Vietnam,” Rory Kennedy’s eye-opening documentary about the 1975 evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon, is how calmly it surveys what was once among the angriest topics in American political life. The story is full of emotion and danger, heroism and treachery, but it is told in a mood of rueful retrospect rather than simmering partisan rage. Ms. Kennedy, whose uncle John F. Kennedy expanded American involvement in Vietnam and whose father, Robert F. Kennedy, became one of the ensuing war’s most passionate critics, explores its final episode with an open mind and lively curiosity. There are old clips that have never been widely seen and pieces of information that may surprise many viewers.

Hollywood Reporter: Even with a wealth of archival material to consider, Kennedy digs much deeper to tell this dramatic story. Remarkable photos and footage shot aboard the destroyer USS Kirk as the crew cleared its decks to receive dozens of helicopters flown by South Vietnamese pilots transporting refugees, then pushed the choppers overboard to make room for incoming flights, is astounding in it its immediacy. The nighttime bombing of the U.S. airbase outside Saigon, rendered in grainy color images of exploding ordnance and equipment, drives home the desperation that escapees were facing in the final hours before the fall of the city. As great documentaries do, “Last Days in Vietnam” humanizes events that can seem merely factual in news reports and textbooks. Interviewing many survivors of the evacuation, both American and South Vietnamese (no North Vietnamese or present-day Vietnamese are included), Kennedy conveys the great compassion and valor certain Americans displayed at a time when their countrymen mostly enjoyed the balm of willful ignorance, just as she evokes the emotions of South Vietnamese being torn from their invaded homeland. It’s one of the saddest stories ever told.

WaPo: “The Last Days in Vietnam,” at its core, is about moral courage — the bravery to confront the question of “who goes and who gets left behind,” as retired Army colonel Stuart Herrington puts it. Within the context of a war perceived through the scrim of so much misgiving and moral outrage, Kennedy finds heroes who were willing to ask that tough question, and put everything on the line to answer it.


Official Site

Streaming on Amazon Prime

How Rory Kennedy’s ‘Last Days in Vietnam’ Distorts History

Last Days in Vietnam is the best kind of documentary
posted by MoonOrb (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I really liked this and found it fascinating and heartbreaking. I was a wee lad in the 70s and my father was an active duty military officer during the Vietnam War (though he did not serve in SE Asia).

There was never much dinner table discussion about it, but more a persistent permeating undercurrent of the war and snippets of overheard anecdotes between my dad and his colleagues and my mom and her friends in the Officer's Wives Club.

I'm especially disheartened when I see the collapse of US support and the sudden abandonment of the civilian population of South Vietnam. You can really sense the despair and fear in the footage.

This really takes on a new relevance with the sudden wholesale betrayal of the Kurds in northern Syria. No doubt, they are suffering in similar ways.

The US's strongest South Vietnamese supporters, allies in the military and government who had been "guaranteed safety and support" were abandoned to almost certain death or imprisonment by the North. Sound familiar?

Do you really want to understand the tragedy wrought by 20th century American imperialism? Watch this closely.

Ever wonder where 'boat people' came from? The US built that.

And finally, the horrifying Operation Babylift, where the US attempts to do the minimum possible: expatriating children - separate from their abandoned families - to be adopted out across the US. Oh, and we killed a bunch of the kids on our first try.

I'm as anti-war as it gets, and I can still see how this way of withdrawing was a worse, less moral choice then a structured phased conclusion to the quagmire.

This should be required viewing for all USians - similar to the mandatory education of the German civilian population post-Holocaust.

We could all watch it on the fourth of July.

Anyway. Good film.
posted by j_curiouser at 6:38 AM on November 2, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Nation link in the OP is a valid criticism of the film. I can hold conflicting opinions as good as anybody. Everything about the Vietnam War is muddy, complicated, and fucked up.
posted by j_curiouser at 6:44 AM on November 2, 2019

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