Why make a movie about Vietnam? With all the other problems facing the world, why revisit a war that ended before most people were born?
I am a documentary filmmaker. I was drafted when I was 21 and served in Vietnam as an entertainment specialist. Two and a half million other Americans served in Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand were killed in action. Three hundred thousand were wounded. But casualties alone cannot explain the effects of the war, which go far beyond the immediate destruction of life and property and reach into every area of social and personal life. The Vietnam War shaped America. It was our rude awakening. America’s coming of age.
For me, a young man in a far off, exotic world, it was also my coming of age. My story is a little different than most. I worked for a branch of Special Services producing shows to entertain the troops. I bunked in a barracks in Saigon but spent most of my time in cafes, bars and bookstalls. I fell in love with a girl named Candy, a beautiful young woman who believed herself to be possessed by the ghost of a Buddhist nun.
Recently, I returned to Vietnam to film my reactions to the country 40 years later. I attempted to locate Candy, and in the process learned about what happened since the end of the war. Americans, I learned, are still killing people. The defoliant Agent Orange, sprayed by Americans across the country, is still causing sickness and birth defects. Unexploded ordnance is killing hundreds of Vietnamese every year. Candy’s trail leads back to the U.S., now the home of half a million Southeast Asian refugees and their families torn from their ancestors and their homelands.
“Ghost Money” will tell this story through my personal experience, using hand drawn animation reminiscent of Asian comic books. The video record of my return trip to Vietnam will provide the backbone of the film. The history of the war will be told through public domain archival footage and through the dozens of rolls of Super-8mm film that I shot in Vietnam in 1972.
It is a love story, a ghost story. It is a dark story that will open windows into an era that are rarely opened. Perhaps “Ghost Money” will offer solace and forgiveness to others who share this history.
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