As part of ERA’s commitment to helping licence holders make best use of the material available to them, we have decided to start highlighting our ‘top pick’ each week.
Rory Kennedy’s Oscar-Nominated film, Last Days of Vietnam, is airing on Monday night (starting at 10pm) as a part of BBC4’s Storyville strand. The film focuses on the last stages of the war, using footage and interviews to construct an accurate picture of the impact of the conflict.
Documentary which combines astonishing footage from Saigon in April 1975 with contemporary reflections from those who were there. 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. On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront the same moral quandary – whether to obey White House orders to evacuate US citizens only – or to risk punishment and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can.
The events recounted in the film mainly centre on the US evacuation of Saigon, codenamed Operation Frequent Wind. Vividly annotating one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War, that of dozens of South Vietnamese struggling to climb the steps to a rooftop helicopter as Saigon fell, Last Days in Vietnam is a moving and visceral insight into this key moment in history.
The documentary uses a collection of primary sources to paint the picture of the American withdrawal, which means that this film could be used in teaching history. The film may also be of interest to those teaching film studies – it could be used to look at how documentary makers tell stories.