Imagine fifty or sixty years from now, trying to explain this year’s protests to someone too young to have seen George Floyd’s torture and murder…
Imagine instead it is you, seeing that fateful video and being reminded so vividly of what made you either join the protests or wish you could…
DATELINE-SAIGON, being newly released on various on-demand platforms this month, similarly re-captures the zeitgeist of a comparable sea change in America.
Anyone of TV watching age in the ‘60s will see the Vietnam War carnage images and get that déjà vu all over again feeling. Anyone newer to the world will get a good gander of what all that fuss was about.
We see a young battle weary soldier meeting our gaze, competing with the image of his dead compatriots surrounding him in piles. We feel the dust of helicopters flying up from the field of battle below. Elegant svelte women wearing stylish áo dài walk the streets of Saigon, fluttering past Paris style cafes as they happily chatter. Later, we see a stream of politicians from JFK on down, assuring us that America is not at war, or winning the war, or involved in an existential battle to prevent the Communists from toppling one after another Southeast Asian nation like dominoes.
DATELINE:SAIGON Reminds of Lost Innocence
For fellow Vietnam War protesters back in the day DATELINE:SAIGON is a pithy reminder of how draft dodging became an honorable option. It is most of all German photojournalist Horst Faas’ iconic black and white photo captures of events unfolding that stir memories. Or, hearing the one-time AP stringer Malcolm Browne recount his PTSD-inducing witness of Buddhist monks setting themselves on fire, as we watch it too, that brings us back to the times.
The story focuses on five journalists then fresh-faced and not long out of college when fate sent them to be the first ones covering the emerging war: Malcolm Browne, Peter Arnett, Neil Sheehan, David Halberstam, and photographer Horst Faas. More green than seasoned, they were rivals who become bonded brothers when the powers that be turned on them to suppress the truth from being told. In the film we meet these men in their later years, each with long lists of accolades such as Pulitzer Prizes. Though they are now gray haired elder statesmen, their common tale of losing innocence often brings quakes to their tone. They learned to jettison their trust in our generals, political leaders, and anything other than the facts on the ground they could find for themselves—and us, the eventual consumers of the bright shining truths they uncovered.
DATELINE:SAIGON is especially recommended to students of history or those who think about journalistic integrity. If you are looking for lite entertainment and escape, this is not the film for you.
Director: Tom Herman
Narrator: Sam Waterston
Coming to Apple, iTunes, Amazon & DVD July 14, 2020
Visit the First Run Features website to find up-to-date information on screenings and video-on-demand sources to see DATELINE:SAIGON.
Images courtesy of DATELINE-SAIGON
About the Author:
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.