1.11.13: Tours of Duty

Tonight, a visit to the Hanoi Cinematheque, a charming members-only art house cinema hidden away in a secret courtyard complete with outdoor cafe and the equally atmospheric Hotel Des Artistes. This evening’s program features Killing Memories and Forgiveness and Healing in Viet Nam, two “documentaries by and about American veterans and healers who return to Viet Nam to visit old battlefields, meet in reconciliation with former foes, grieve their actions and heal their wounds from past tours of duty to find forgiveness, reconciliation and new life in the Viet Nam of today.”  With several American and Vietnamese veterans in the attendance as well as adult children of Vietnamese parents still affected by the aftermath of war, the raw emotion in the room is palpable. Somewhat incredibly, the repeated message of these films is that although American soldiers return to Vietnam seeking forgiveness, the Vietnamese people feel it is not their responsibility to absolve long-ago actions that represent the machinations of imperialist governments. Rather, it is up to each individual soldier to look into his own heart, examine his deeds, release the past and find the strength to forgive himself.

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