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Just Like Me
By Steve Krug (reviewer)
Just Like Me: The Vietnam War/The American War
A documentary film by Ron Osgood
This film takes stories from US veterans, North Vietnam veterans, South Vietnam veterans, other non-combatants and weaves their remembrances into a documentary that tries to show different levels of commonality and human connection.
"Just Like Me"—this part of the title comes from one US vet realizing his Vietnamese counterpart had similar experiences and desires. Some parts of the stories from all three military's show the vets had similar feelings and experiences during the war, like loss of comrades, being separated from family/loved ones, remembering certain campaigns and battles. Other experiences are unique: a Vietnamese woman's recollection of growing up being bombed as a normal part of life certainly has no US parallel, indeed there is a mention by a US serviceman that bombing from thirty thousand feet separates one from the results. The film notes PTSD from US servicemen but doesn't show stories from either North or South Vietnamese experiencing the same. A particularly telling difference was a North Vietnam vet telling of the loss not only of his comrades but also the deaths of family at home from the war, certainly no US comparison there. One of the connecting stories tells of a US serviceman coaxing a wounded North Vietnamese out of hiding, the other a North Vietnamese treating an injured downed US Pilot. Both are proud that they were able to get their prisoners out alive, treating their enemies like humans.
"The Vietnam War/The American War"— this part of the title comes from the same US serviceman finding out the Vietnamese consider our "Vietnam War" to be the "American War"
While I understand the film was put together to allow each participant their own narrative, I would have liked to know a bit more about things mentioned but not fleshed out. What did the US vet think of the movie Platoon? The film shows him talking about going to see it but not his reaction. How did the Vet with survivor's guilt learn to deal with it? There are scenes depicting nationalism but no discussion of how nationalism hinders humanizing of the "others." I'm not sure why the filmmaker put unresolved/unexplored scenes such as these into a film meant to develop compassion and understanding. I would also question the inclusion of the term "Viet Cong," a label coined to degrade the opposition
The film as a whole is well worth watching as it does challenge the notion that enemies are sub human and therefore disposable.
Steve Krug is a retired Merchant Marine captain, was a conscientious objector during the American war in Vietnam and is a VVAW member.