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Portland, Oregon – Lawrence Johnson, known for award-winning documentary films (Stuff, Hand Game), has told many stories through his films, but has been haunted for over 40 years by his own: When he was in the Army in Saigon in the 1970s, he fell in love with a Vietnamese woman named Candy, and when they split at the end of the war, she may have been pregnant with his child.
Funded by a fellowship from the Regional Arts and Culture Council, Johnson and a film crew embarked on a journey to Saigon in 2012 to find out the truth about Candy. This search led him down unexpected paths, into the continuing aftermath of the Vietnam War and into the lives of Amerasian children wanting to reunite with their fathers, knowing all the while that time may be running out.
“I know there are other Vietnam vets like me who are determined to reconnect with our pasts.” says Johnson.
During the war, Johnson worked in Saigon in the early 1970s as an entertainer for Command Military Touring Shows, playing drums and arranging entertainment for the troops. While living there, he shot hours of super 8 film depicting life in Saigon. That rare footage will be used in GHOST MONEY, along with his own brand of brush-drawn animation, to tell the story of Johnson’s war years, and to contrast with scenes of modern Vietnam. To search for Candy, Johnson visited many of the “haunts” from his past and even appeared on a popular Vietnamese TV show that helps people reunite with lost loved ones.
More information and excerpts of GHOST MONEY are available at www.ghostmoneythefilm.com. Larry Johnson is available for interviews and can provide footage from his film for broadcast.
Haunted by memories of the Vietnam War, an aging filmmaker returns to search for his old girlfriend and discovers he may have fathered a child. Thwarted by false leads, the filmmaker falls in love again, this time with his 30-year-old informant.
Like many Vietnam veterans, my life was forever changed by my experiences during the war. In 2012, I traveled back to Saigon as a filmmaker to find out what had happened to the places and the people I had left behind but never forgotten. My search for Candy, the Vietnamese woman I had loved, led me to the surprising revelation that I may have fathered a child with her.
But this wasn’t the only shock in store for me. Forty years later, I learned that the war still haunts that nation. In the fields and towns our soldiers drenched with Agent Orange, babies are still being born with birth defects. Unexploded ordnance still kills dozens per year. And thousands of Amerasian children born of relationships like mine and Candy’s are living lives shadowed by abandonment and persecution.
My pursuit of just one woman and one child ends up taking me through the streets, bars, hospitals, and homes of modern Vietnam, and into the American communities of Vietnamese refugees torn from their homeland during the war. And as weeks of searching have turned into months, I am now keenly aware that for Amerasian children who want to reunite with their aging fathers, time is running out.
GHOST MONEY will tell the story of my war years through narration and rarely-seen super 8 footage I shot in Saigon in the 1970s. As part of the special forces that arranged entertainment for the troops, I bunked in a barracks in Saigon but spent most of my time in cafes and streets of the city, documenting everything I saw, both beautiful and horrifying.
GHOST MONEY will also tell the story of how I fell in love with Liên, aka “Candy,” who was captivating, somewhat unstable, and like many Vietnamese, believed she was possessed by con ma, an angry ghost. I will bring this turbulent love story to life through brush-drawn animation based on the many drawings I did during the time we were together.
Above all, GHOST MONEY will tell the story of the scars war leaves behind: Women still living with the fact that they were systematically “sold” to meet the needs of American GIs. Children who have grown up as outsiders because of fathers they have never met. Families torn apart by loss and relocation. My hope is that my story will inspire other veterans like me to reconnect with their past and help to heal some of these wounds.