Rory Kennedy

September 3, 2014 - Rory Kennedy 09/03/2014 Views: 30,122

Documentarian Rory Kennedy discusses her film "Last Days in Vietnam" and recalls a touching moment at its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. (7:01)

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT, A DOCUMENTARYFILMMAKER.

HER LATEST FILM IS CALLED "LASTDAYS IN VIETNAM."

>> I BORROWED A TRUCK, AND IBASICALLY SENT THE SIGNAL TO MY

FOLKS. THIS MEANTA GROUP OF SOUTH VIETNAMESE

MAJORS, LIEUTENANT COLONELS,COLONELS AND THEIR FAMILIES

TO MUSTER AN ADDRESS IN DOWNTOWNSAIGON.

I DROVE DOWN THERE.

THEY LOADED UP ONTO THE TRUCK.

AND I DROVE THEM TO THE AIRBASE. AND I HAD TOLD THEM,

WHEN YOU HEAR THREE THUMPS, THATMEANS HOLD

THE BABIES' MOUTHS, DON'TBREATHE, DON'T TALK, DON'T MAKE

ANY NOISE BECAUSE WE'RE GOINGTHROUGH THE GATE POST.

>> Jon: PLEASE WELCOME RORYKENNEDY.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]HELLO.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

>> Jon: FABULOUS.

FABULOUS FILM.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Jon: THIS IS ABOUT THEEVACUATION OF SAIGON. YOU KNOW,

IT'S ONE OF THE LESSER-KNOWNEPISODES OF THE VIETNAM WAR.

>> WELL, IT'S... YOU KNOW, ITHINK A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE

FAMILIAR WITH THE ICONIC IMAGEOF THE HELICOPTER...

>> Jon: YES.

>> ON TOP OF WHAT PEOPLE THINKIS THE EMBASSY.

IT'S, IN FACT, NOT THE EMBASSY.

AND THE DESPERATION OF THEVIETNAMESE TRYING TO LEAVE

DURING THOSE FINAL HOURS, ANDWHAT HAD HAPPENED WAS WE HAD

APPEASED IN 1973.

A PEACE ACCORD WAS SIGNED.

WE NO LONGER HAD TROOPS.

THIS IS NOW APRIL OF '75.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> THE NORTH COME IN.

THE COUNTRY FALLS WITHIN FOURMONTHS BECAUSE THE U.S. PRESENCE

ISN'T THERE.

AND IT FALLS MUCH QUICKER THANANYBODY EXPECTED.

SO IT BECAME VERY DESPERATE.

THE U.S. DECIDED WE JUST GOT TOGET THE AMERICANS OUT.

AND LEAVE ALL OUR VIETNAMESECOUNTERPARTS BEHIND.

>> Jon: AND THEY'VE SURROUNDEDSAIGON.

>> THEY'VE SURROUNDED -->> Jon: BUT IN THE PEACE

ACCORDS, THEY HAD PROMISED NOTTO DO THIS.

>> THEY HAD PROMISED NOT TO, BUTTHEY BROKE THE PEACE ACCORD, AND

THE U.S. HAD PROMISED... NIXONHAD PROMISED THE U.S. WILL COME

IN IF THE NORTH ATTACKS, ANDTHEN, OF COURSE, NIXON HAD

RESIGNED WITH WATERGATE.

FORD WAS IN OFFICE.

WE HAD PUT A CONGRESS INPOSITION WHERE THEY REALLY

DIDN'T SUPPORT THE WAR INVIETNAM.

AS A COUNTRY WE DIDN'T SUPPORTTHE WAR, AND WE JUST WEREN'T

GOING TO GET BEHIND GETTING BACKINTO THE QUAGMIRE OF VIETNAM.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> AND SO THERE WAS NO SUPPORTBY THE U.S., AND THEY JUST WERE

ABLE TO KIND OF... IT FELL LIKEA HOUSE OF CARDS.

>> Jon: IT'S AMAZING HOWUNITED STATES' HISTORY EXISTS IN

SUCH SINGULAR FASHION, AND YOUNEVER SEE A CYCLE OF THESE TYPES

OF...

>> NEVER REPEATS ITSELF?

[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]>> Jon: THIS IS WHAT'S

INTERESTING ABOUT THIS,MANY PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE,

SO THERE ARE... THE PEOPLE THATARE WORKING IN SAIGON,

THE AMERICANS HAVE THESEENORMOUS SUPPORT TEAMS OF

VIETNAMESE WHO HAVE RISKEDTHEIR LIVES TO WORK WITH US.

>> WELL, EXACTLY.

AND YOU CAN IMAGINE MANY PEOPLEHAD BEEN THERE OVER YEARS AND

YEARS.

AND THEY HAD, YOU KNOW, SOLDIERSHAD MARRIED VIETNAMESE.

THEY HAD CHILDREN WHO WEREVIETNAMESE. THEY HAD THEIR

COUNTERPARTS WHO THEY HAD BEENWORKING WITH, AND IT'S ANYBODY

FROM, YOU KNOW, AGENTS TO COOKSAND PEOPLE WHO DROVE THE CAR,

ALL OF WHOM WERE THEN A GREATERRISK BECAUSE THEN,

YOU KNOW, WE LEAVE THE COUNTRY,WE LEAVE THEM THERE THERE.

THEY'RE ASSOCIATED WITH THEAMERICANS, AND THEN THEY'RE AT

RISK FOR, YOU KNOW, BEINGTORTURED, BEING KILLED AND BEING

PUT INTO THESE REEDUCATIONCAMPS, AS THEY WERE CALLED.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> AND SO THEY'RE VERYVULNERABLE AND, YOU KNOW, TO ME

I THINK WE HAVE A REALRESPONSIBILITY.

AND SO WHAT HAPPENS AND WHAT THEFILM DOCUMENTS IS THE AMERICANS

WHO ARE ON THE GROUND WHO WENTAGAINST U.S. POLICY...

>> Jon: RIGHT.>> AND SAID, YOU KNOW, WE

UNDERSTAND THAT IT'S ONLYAMERICANS GETTING OUT OF THIS

COUNTRY, BUT WE'RE NOT GOING TOLEAVE THESE GUYS BEHIND, AND

THEY COMMITTED, YOU KNOW, WHATWAS REALLY ILLEGAL ACTS TO GET

THE VIETNAMESE OUT.

AND, IT'S REALLY A CELEBRATIONOF THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO WERE ON

THE FRONT LINES OF THIS.

>> Jon: OBVIOUSLY IN THISSITUATION DESPITE BEST EFFORTS

OF REALLY GOOD PEOPLE WORKINGHARD, PEOPLE WERE LEFT BEHIND.

WHAT IS THAT LIKE NOW?

DO THEY TRY AND CONTACT, YOUKNOW, WHAT ARE THE STORIES OF

THE SURVIVORS?

>> WELL, YOU KNOW, THIS ISALL... THIS FILM IS IN THE

CONTEXT OF LOSING A WAR ANDABANDONING A HUGE NUMBER OF

PEOPLE, SO --

>> Jon: SO IT'S LIKE A ROM COM.

>> THAT'S ONE WAY TO THINK ABOUTIT.

BUT, SO, YOU KNOW, THAT'S,THAT'S THE CONTEXT OF IT.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> AND BUT WITHIN THAT THERE ARETHESE EXTRAORDINARY,

HEROIC STORIES, AND WHATHAPPENED TO A LOT OF THE PEOPLE

LEFT BEHIND IS THEY DID END UPIN THESE RESETTLEMENT CAMPS,

REEDUCATION CAMPS ASTHEY WERE CALLED,

A MILLION PEOPLE, AND SOME OFTHEM WERE ABLE TO

ESCAPE AND EVENTUALLY COME TOTHE UNITED STATES, SO

WE NOW HAVE ABOUT TWO MILLIONVIETNAMESE HERE IN THE COUNTRY.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> MANY OF WHOM, YOU KNOW, HAVECOME OVER THE LAST 30 YEARS AND

A LOT OF WHOM CAME INTHE '70s AND 80s.

ABOUT 130,000 COME DURING THECOURSE OF THE STORY WE DOCUMENT

IN THIS FILM.

>> Jon: RIGHT. YOU MENTIONED,THOUGH,

THAT WHEN YOU SCREENEDTHE FILM, THERE WERE SOME OF THE

AMERICANS THAT HAD BEEN THERETHAT HAD TRIED VERY HARD, BUT

THERE WERE ALSO SOME VIETNAMESETHERE.

WHAT WAS THAT LIKE WHEN THEY GOTTOGETHER?

>> WELL, IT WAS REALLYINCREDIBLE.

THE FILM PREMIERED AT THESUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL, AND

IT WAS FIRST TIME I HAD SEEN ITIN THE THEATER OR ANYBODY HAD.

WE INVITED A NUMBER OF THEPEOPLE WHO WERE IN THE FILM TO

COME SEE IT. SO THEY HAD SEEN ITFOR THE FIRST TIME. AND IT WAS,

YOU KNOW, AN AUDIENCE OF 700PEOPLE, AND THEY CAME UP AND IT

WAS A REALLY WONDERFUL MOMENT OFSTANDING OVATIONS AND WHAT NOT,

BUT ON THE STAGE WAS STUHARRINGTON...

>> Jon: RIGHT.>> WHO, YOU KNOW, YOU SAW IN

THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOW, ANDHE HAS AN INCREDIBLE STORY IN

THE FILM BECAUSE HE'S VERYHEROIC, BUT HE ALSO HAS THIS

MOMENT WHERE HE'S IN THEEMBASSY WHERE THE

DECISION... THERE'S ABOUT2,000 PEOPLE IN THE EMBASSY.

BY 4:00 A.M., THEY'VE GOTTENABOUT 1,600 PEOPLE OUT, BUT

THERE ARE 400 PEOPLE LEFTBEHIND.

HE'S THEN TOLD THEY'RE NOTSENDING ANY MORE HELICOPTERS.

SO HE THEN TELLS THESE PEOPLE,AND HE SPEAKS VIETNAMESE, WE'RE

GOING TO SAVE YOU.

I'M NOT GOING TO LEAVE YOU HERE,AND THEN HE LEAVES AND HE HIDES

AND HE GOES UP TO THE TOP OF THEEMBASSY AND HE GETS IN A

HELICOPTER AND HE LEAVES.

AND HE LOOKS DOWN AT THE 420PEOPLE HE LEFT BEHIND, AND HE'S

HEARTBROKEN, AND HE SAYS, "THISIS WRONG," YOU KNOW, AND HOW IT

WAS A NUTSHELL OFAMERICAN POLICY.

BUT AT SUNDANCE, ONE OF THE 420WHO WAS LEFT BEHIND WAS ON STAGE

WITH HIM, AND HE SAID ON STAGE,"I'VE LIVED IN FEAR OF RUNNING

INTO ONE OF THE 420," AND SO BENFO, WHO WAS ONE OF THE GUYS LEFT

BEHIND, GRABBED THE MIC AND HESAID, "STU, I WANT YOU TO KNOW,

I FORGIVE YOU."

AND IT WAS THIS REALLYEXTRAORDINARY MOMENT.

>> Jon: YEAH. THAT'S BEAUTIFUL.>> YEAH.

>> AND IT'S AN INCREDIBLY MOVINGLOOK AT PART OF OUR HISTORY THAT

I'M SURE WE'VE ALREADYFORGOTTEN.

[LAUGHTER]SO, REALLY, REALLY WELL DONE.

"LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM" OPENS INNEW YORK SEPTEMBER 5TH.

OPENS IN MORE CITIES IN THECOMING WEEKS.

RORY KENNEDY.