London’s excellent BFI Flare Film Festival is in full swing now with a great selection of films for all queer tastes. Tickets are still available for many screenings over the next week and I highly recommend a visit to the BFI site down on London’s Southbank. There’s a warm, friendly atmosphere and the lively bars, restaurants and movie theatres are full of interesting-looking people.
One standout film for me so far is Jimmy in Saigon. This is a feature documentary by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Peter McDowell and executive producer Dan Savage. Peter chronicles the story of Jim, his eldest brother, a Vietnam War veteran. Jim was quite an alternative thinker and didn’t play by society’s rules. In early 1970 he dropped out of college even though that meant he was likely to be called up for the US army draft. This happened and he spent six months in Vietnam with the US army. Then, once back in the US for a few months, he surprises everyone by deciding to move back to Vietnam as a civilian, even though there is still a full-on war going on. He doesn’t give any reasons for his return to the war-torn country. What could be drawing him back to Saigon? Back in Vietnam, a year later, in 1972, when Jim was 24, he suddenly dies under mysterious circumstances whilst living in a poor part of Saigon. The family learns about Jim’s death by telegram but are not given many details re the cause of death.
Over an eleven-year period, Peter slowly pieces together the story of Jim’s life and death in Vietnam. He uses over 200 of Jim’s letters, photographs, fascinating footage of 1970’s Vietnam, family home movies, and candid interviews with Jim’s friends, family, and associates to tell this story. His journey takes him across the USA, France and Vietnam. Peter has created a tear-jerking piece of work that examines, sexuality, grief, family secrets, war, drug use and healing. This intensely personal film also has a great soundtrack and clever use of animation. Ultimately it celebrates a short but powerful life. As Jim said in one of his letters home. “One can do a lot of living in a short time. Or, of course, just the opposite.”
Review: Ris Fatah
Queerguru Contributing Editor Ris Fatah is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant (when he can be bothered) who divides and wastes his time between London and Ibiza. He is a lover of all things queer, feminist, and human rights in general. @ris.fatah