Perhaps the most striking thing about LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM, Rory Kennedy’s eye-opening documentary about the 1975 evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon, is how calmly it surveys what was once among the angriest topics in American political life. The story is full of emotion and danger, heroism and treachery, but it is told in a mood of rueful retrospect rather than simmering partisan rage. Ms. Kennedy, whose uncle John F. Kennedy expanded American involvement in Vietnam and whose father, Robert F. Kennedy, became one of the ensuing war’s most passionate critics, explores its final episode with an open mind and lively curiosity. There are old clips that have never been widely seen and pieces of information that may surprise many viewers.– The New York Times, 9/4/14
Rory Kennedy’s award-winning documentary ETHEL screened within the 2012 Maryland Film Festival and again as part of the MFF/WYPR Spotlight Series.
During the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as South Vietnamese resistance crumbles. The United States has only a skeleton crew of diplomats and military operatives still in the country. As Communist victory becomes inevitable and the U.S. readies to withdraw, some Americans begin to consider the certain imprisonment and possible death of their South Vietnamese allies, co-workers, and friends. Meanwhile, the prospect of an official evacuation of South Vietnamese becomes terminally delayed by Congressional gridlock and the inexplicably optimistic U.S. Ambassador. With the clock ticking and the city under fire, a number of heroic Americans take matters into their own hands, engaging in unsanctioned and often makeshift operations in a desperate effort to save as many South Vietnamese lives as possible.