Last night I was lucky enough to give a talk to graduate students at N.C. State University in Dr. Bob Patterson's class Global Sustainability and Human Development. What a wonderful evening of discussion with some incredibly intelligent and kind folks!
The talk was about Abandoned Allies and the main issues the film addresses--namely the abandonment of our allies after the Vietnam War and what has happened since then. I talked briefly about the Montagnard people and our film's production, cast members, and future plans. When we started talking about current affairs, things got really interesting. How I wish it were recorded!
These folks asked excellent questions, and helped me think of many things that will become increasingly important once we finish production. My mind is so focused on wrapping production, that it's almost difficult to transition into the next stages: branding, marketing, communications and activities/efforts related to the issues. Our work won't end with the film has been completed; no, the work will continue long after that.
The conversation last night was really energizing. It gave me even more hope that this little film of ours could lead to positive change. The issues are quite complex, and for nearly three years now I have been obsessively thinking of ways that our audiences can take action after they see the film. For the most part, though, I have been at a loss as to real solutions that could lead to change. I think this is not because there are no solutions, but mostly because I have had a real learning curve about so many things and that constant state of chaos is what is truly overwhelming.
Anyway, I know that I need to identify steps that can be taken after the film is finished. No one wants to watch a film that presents a problem, and never offers a solution. (That type of thing was never allowed in our house when I was growing up. If you complained about something, you had to offer a solution to the problem.) So, how do we facilitate positive change?
Our cast members have talked about a way to publicly honor the Montagnards, and I think this is something that should definitely happen. It could take the shape of a monument in DC near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or somewhere in N.C. where people can come visit it. Or it could be a traveling exhibition, sharing information about the Montagnards and capturing/collecting information about their culture. This first part is a way to honor and support the Montagnards in North Carolina through awareness that leads to conversation that leads to change.
The second part would be supporting the Montagnards in Vietnam, who are still being persecuted for being American allies. How could we positively influence that change? It seems like a big thing to take on, and quite honestly I don't have the answers to those questions. My cast members tell me that trading with Vietnam is essentially supporting a Communist government that is harming our allies. The comparison one cast member uses is, "You don't give a dog a bone so that he'll quit biting you. What will he do after that? He'll bite you again to get another bone." So do we continue trading with Vietnam? Is foreign trade inherently tied to human rights policies or not?
The conversation last night was really helpful because these are things I have been thinking about for so long. I'm not a political scientist, and I don't know enough about foreign policy. But I can help facilitate conversations.
A few of the students chatted with me after the talk, and we have been emailing since then. It would be so wonderful to have their help thinking through these things. There's a lot of work to do, and it's impossible to do it alone.
I'm so grateful to Dr. Bob Patterson, his students, and Ms. Astra Barnes for inviting me to join them last night. As I suspected, they taught me so much more than I could ever share with them. I wish them all the best of luck in their studies in Global Sustainability and Human Development.