The war that America can't quite resolve is the focus of this four-day film festival presented by Carnegie Mellon's history department. The schedule of more than a dozen films comprises a mix of documentary and feature films, from Hollywood blockbusters to lesser-known documentaries, including the Frontline program Bloods -- which examines the struggles black soldiers had fighting both the enemy and discrimination within their ranks -- and two recent shorts about contemporary life in Vietnam.
Sean Battis, a senior at CMU studying computer engineering who headed up the half-dozen students on the film selection committee, explains, "We wanted to have both an American and Vietnamese perspective of the war, and that tends to be hard to do with a lot of the Hollywood mainstream films which are more from the American standpoint. We are working on a special film presentation from the Vietnam Embassy in Washington, D.C. for the closing night."
To highlight another theme -- women's views of the war -- the festival has scheduled two guest speakers. On Thu., April 1, Barbara Sonneborn will present her lyrical 1998 film essay, Regret to Inform, about Vietnam War widows, inspired by her own loss, that stitches together the stories of both American and Vietnamese women. The following evening, Vietnamese author Le Ly Hayslip, whose memoirs about her life as a Viet Cong who eventually married a U.S. Marine were the basis for Oliver Stone's 1993 film Heaven and Earth, will speak.
The students programmed the festival under the guidance of Eugene Smith, a professor in the history department, who teaches a class on the Vietnam War. Says Battis, "We got a list of about 60 films as a starting point. We tried to stay more towards the direct involvement, whether it be actual combat or how the home front dealt with it, like Born on the Fourth of July."
As the recent sniping between President George W. Bush and his presumptive opponent, Sen. John Kerry, has shown, the Vietnam War, though officially "over" nearly 30 years ago, remains a live-wire topic. Regarding the resurgence of public Vietnam War hand-wringing, Battis says the timing of the festival was simply a coincidence. "It wasn't intentional when we picked the topic. But people are coming into class and saying 'did you hear what happened today,' and it keeps us up with how the war is still affecting people."
Thu., April 1
7:30 p.m. Briefing with Barbara Sonneborn, director of Regret to Inform
8 p.m. Regret to Inform (1998, 72 min.)
9:15 p.m. Debriefing with Barbara Sonneborn
10 p.m. Full Metal Jacket (1987, 116 min.)
Fri., April 2
7:30 p.m. Briefing with Le Ly Hayslip, Vietnamese author
8 p.m. Heaven and Earth (1993, 140 min.)
10: 15 p.m. Debriefing with Le Ly Hayslip
11:00 p.m. Platoon (1986, 120 min.)
Sat. April 3
1 p.m. Good Morning, Vietnam (1987, 119 min.)
3 p.m. Veterans' panel discussion
4:30 p.m. The Quiet American (2002, 101 min.)
7 p.m. We Were Soldiers (2002, 138 min.)
10 p.m. Apocalypse Now (1979, 160 min.)
Sun., April 4
Adamson Wing, Baker Hall 136A
Noon Celebrating the New Year in Vietnam (2002, 27 min.)
12:30 p.m. Hanoi: 30 Years After the Christmas Bombing (2002, 27 min.)
1:30 p.m. Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (1989, 83 min.)
3 p.m. Bloods (1986, 60 min.)
4:30 p.m. Born of the Fourth of July (1989, 145 min.)
7:30 p.m. The Fog of War (2003, 95 min.)
10 p.m. Special two-hour film presentation from the Vietnamese Embassy