The massacre of over 500 innocent civilians by American soldiers in the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968, was one of the darkest moments of the Vietnam War—one that traumatized the nation and swayed the course of history. 2018 marked its 50th anniversary. The events of that day may well have gone unnoticed save for the actions of a young army helicopter pilot who, by happenstance, witnessed the killing in the course of a routine reconnaissance flight. Appalled by what he saw, Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson attempted to intercede. Aghast at his inability to stop the slaughter, in a moment of enormous passion, Thompson threatened to open fire on his own troops. Failing to stop the carnage, he pulled a wounded child from its dead mother’s grasp and flew him to safety. He then reported the massacre to military high command, thus putting the incident firmly in army records. Thompson’s refusal to remain silent about the massacre forced the military to conduct an inquiry and trial that shook the national conscience.
Among the generation that came of age during the 1960s were four artists—David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet, composer Jonathan Berger, novelist Harriet Scott Chessman, and singer Rinde Eckert—on whose lives the Vietnam War and its controversy left an indelible mark. Out of this concern, they created a new music opera, with musician Van-Anh Vo, that explores the tragedy of My Lai through the perspective of Thompson’s naïve, heroically idealistic, ethical decision to act, and its consequences. The creativity of this artistic collaboration brings a whole new dimension of understanding of the Vietnam War and of Hugh Thompson that one cannot get from a traditional historical documentary. The intensity of the libretto, the power of the unique music, the focus of a haiku encapsulation of a specific story captures the essence of the tragedy of that war. It is an emotional echo for those who lived through it and a deeply moving experience for younger generations.
Disclaimer: This film contains a handful of graphic, violent images of victims of the massacre.
Connie Field is an Academy Award nominated & Emmy winning director making high profile documentaries shown all over the world: “Al Helm: Martin Luther King in Palestine”; Independent Lens’ “Have You Heard From Johannesburg”; The American Experience’s “Freedom on My Mind” and “The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter”, and the Council on Foundation’s award winner “Salud.” Winner of many numerous awards including Sundance Grand Jury Prize, British Academy Award Nominee, and IDA Best Feature Documentary & Series.
A soldier fights through the heat and hell of the Vietnam War in the early 1960s.