Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011: Part II

When I saw this sticker on the back of a car, I knew
I was in the right location for the screening.
On Saturday, July 16, 2011, at 5pm, we shared the latest cut of Abandoned Allies with more of our cast members. It was a delightful but difficult and long day. I really enjoyed having our cast in the same room. I look forward to celebrating with them all together when the film is finished.

At the private screening, the cast shared feedback that was incredibly helpful. I wrote down notes about the pieces of the film that bother me, and jotted down suggestions from the cast afterwards. We had an in-depth talk about the film, what we want to do with it, and why it has been put together in such a way.

Surry and I shared our mission for the film: raising awareness. We can't make any promises bigger than that, but we want to share this particular story with those willing to listen. This is not a political film with a heavy agenda, but one that explores a segment of American history that has previously gone unnoticed.
As I explained to my family and friends on Sunday, you can't walk into just any book store and pick up a book on the subject. Believe me, I've tried. The books I read to learn about it were written by most of our cast members, many of which are hard to find. If you're willing to put forth a bit of effort, though, they can be located. For example, one of our cast member just put together something he's selling on Amazon about the Jarai tribe.

Every time I chat with some of our cast members, like on Saturday, they stress the importance of showing people the truth of what's happening today in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. They relay stories of pain, suffering, and death happening in their homeland at the hands of the Communists because they were our allies. They want to use the film to tell the world that their people are in trouble.

So there were some interesting conversations on Saturday, some of which pained me greatly. I can only imagine that these folks are totally outraged because their people are suffering--but they sit calmly by me and tell their stories. They are working hard to be heard, share their story, and keep their culture alive but I imagine they feel like no one is listening.

I'm not sure if they are openly suspicious about me, but I feel they are looking for signs that I am, actually, trustworthy. It's like they want to know that I really will use the film will raise awareness. That I actually am grateful for their time. That they should, really, continue to buy in to the project and the hope that it will do any good. Perhaps I am sensing something that's not really there, but I can almost feel it hanging in the air.

It's as if they want to know that I am not using their story to start a film career, make a buck or two, and then vanish into thin air afterwards. And if they are thinking that, can you blame them since that's what happened in the early 1970s?

These things are never spoken, mind you, but I am sensitive to it because they've been wronged so many times. I don't want to promise anything I can't guarantee delivery on later. They've been marginalized and ignored for so many years. Why would anyone--especially some young Southern girl who is as ignorant as I am--actually give a damn about helping?

Who would still have hope after that long? What could I possibly do to make a difference now? I'm just some kid making a film for the first time. The list of things I don't have is a long one, but my blood, sweat, and tears are invested in Abandoned Allies so I don't plan on going anywhere any time soon. It's hard to say that, so I'd rather just show it by forging on and continuing to build a friendship with them if I can.

It's really hard to ask someone for just a little more patience. Just a little more hope. Just a little more of their time so that I can get the story straight. Especially when I have nothing to offer them in return.

So, yeah, Saturday was a really challenging day.

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