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Stone directs Penn in My Lai Massacre film

OliverStone.jpgSean Penn is set to take up acting duties behind the directing lens of Oliver Stone in another Vietnam war film called Pinkville, this time that of the My Lai Massacre, some say a huge turning point in the attitude of US citizens to the war.

The My Lai Massacre saw the massacre of hundreds of unarmed civilians by US soldiers on March 16th 1968 in the village of My Lai. A US Army report estimates the dead at three hundred and forty seven while a local memorial lists some five hundred and four names of the dead.

The Wikipedia article is horrific, and I would advise careful reading as it contains images of those killed as well as some upsetting descriptions. It does say that a US military commander told the soldiers that there would be no civilians there that morning and that anyone who was there should be treated as Viet Cong and the village destroyed.

It sounds a fitting story for Oliver Stone to bring to the screen, and with a powerful and intense performance from Sean Penn it is set to be an emotional one too. Also starring in Pinkville will be Channing Tatum according to the Latino Review story through Moviehole.

I know there will be comparisons made with the current war, but that aside I think this could be a very powerful film regardless of how it applies to current events. With Stone directing Penn on this subject matter? I think we're in for a truly powerful film.





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No other filmmaker would be as suitable as this to depict this piece of dark history.

I have to agree with you there Peter.

The unending fascination with an awful and nontypical incident of the war makes one wonder what it is about some Americans today that takes them into compulsive self-flagellation. Are the histories of the American Revolution or the Civil War dominated by the atrocities that occurred in those conflicts? Do the Hanoi history books even mention the 4000-odd people coldly and quite deliberately massacred in Hue two months before My Lai? Shining a cinematic spotlight on this sad bit of history is not a positive, productive act.

I'm not entirely sure what you're trying to say with the comment about the histories of American wars, however on the shining a cinematic spotlight part...

A film can only concentrate on up to three hours at a time, and that's not a far representation of anything other than a three hour event, and at that one which is seen from limited viewpoints. So the portrayal of an entire war is extremely difficult and begins to miss out people, events and facts.

So, the only sensible thing to do is to focus on a small event to give some meaning and retain some historical view of it, as well as trying to present something factual and balanced. It may be sad and not postive, but that means that there's all the more to learn from it.

The only sensible thing to do to gain deep understanding of a war is to concentrate on a tiny snapshot of a single event? Wow, so the way to understand the American Revolution would be to focus on the day Benedict Arnold turned traitor? The way to understand the Civil War would be to focus totally on the famous massacre of Black Union troops by Confederates? The execution of Eddie Slovik is the meaningful event of WW2? Focusing an small events is drama, not history. Unfortunately in the context of Vietnam the drama of an atrocity that was not typical of US troop behavior (I saw more than enough of the war to say that) will serve more to confirm the terrible but somehow popular legend of US nastiness than anything else.

Well first of all you misquoted me, and secondly you missed out the qualifying statement. I did not say:

"The only sensible thing to do to gain deep understanding of a war is to concentrate on a tiny snapshot of a single event"

I said, and I'll help you out because I know it's a full comment back:

"A film can only concentrate on up to three hours at a time, and that's not a far representation of anything other than a three hour event, and at that one which is seen from limited viewpoints. So the portrayal of an entire war is extremely difficult and begins to miss out people, events and facts.

So, the only sensible thing to do is to focus on a small event to give some meaning and retain some historical view of it, as well as trying to present something factual and balanced. It may be sad and not postive, but that means that there's all the more to learn from it."

In summary, in a film you only have a limited amount of time and so the film has to concentrate on a limited event, it can't possibly show a whole war from all perspectives.

Your point that a war (nor any other major human event) cannot be explained in three hours is of course quite correct. I tell the students who come to my lecture on the war that "Saving Private Ryan" is one of the great war movies- BUT it doesn't tell you anything about what WW2 was about, who were the good guys, the bad guys, the issues leading up to it, etc, etc.
But now let's go to your quotes, rather than take any chance on my misquoting you-
"So, the only sensible thing to do is to focus on a small event to give some meaning and retain some historical view of it, as well as trying to present something factual and balanced. It may be sad and not postive, but that means that there's all the more to learn from it."
Making a movie about an atrocity as well known as My Lai is unlikely to give any more meaning to it, and given the strong biases that both Penn and Stone have exposed in the past, chances of a factual and balanced presentation are close to nonexistent. "All the more to learn from it" is a nice thought, but (and here's my quote) "in the context of Vietnam the drama of an atrocity that was not typical of US troop behavior ... will serve more to confirm the terrible but somehow popular legend of US nastiness than anything else." The world has heard about My Lai incessantly for 30+ years now, but when's the last time you heard about the Hue massacre or the Dak To massacre or the many thousands of teachers, policemen, village chiefs, monks, and other South Vietnamese officials assassinated by the VC in their years of terror? As soon as Hollywood does a couple of movies about such things, I'll be able to contemplate a movie about My Lai with much less upset. All that most veterans want is truly impartial use of the lens, exposes of abuses, atrocities, and horrors done across the spectrum of any historical period. The concentration of negative images about the US in Viet Nam in movies has been quite substantial over the years, and you'll have to excuse those of us who are weary of it.

I understand what you're saying, but I haven't heard of any of these events throughout my thirty years, and I would guess I'm not the only one.

This isn't a problem about one specific event, war, or country. With film, as I said, it only has a limited time to present something.

As you point out it also has a set number of creatives behind it, and as neither of us have said yet, a film has to make its money back and also a profit.

So films will only present a narrow viewpoint of an event, and the viewpoint from a set group of creatives and with the effect of entertaining and capturing and audience.

That means there will always be misrepresentations and some areas of events that just aren't attractive to a business such as the film industry.

I think that's a shame, but that's the way it is.

Hi I went to vietnam last year and visited the whole country from north to south. I read the book 4 hours in My Lai, which i found harrowing, but intreeging. The human interest in killing espeacially in war conflict is a starange and complex matter. I myself find most war information facinating, i have not been involved in any military and i have not been affected by war directly in my lifetime, but stories of heroic and brave ventures draw me in.
I have waffelled on a bit. The question i want to ask is has anyone seen an early film on the My Lai murders? I remember reading that a film had been made on the sad subject in the 1980s. If anyone can give me information on the film it would be brilliant. I hope the film is made, but made well with no side taking, just the plain fact portraied of the events that took place that day. The vietnam public are friendly, open beautiful people who did not deserve the might of Amercia trying to impose their views, and fears yet again, in a place where they have no right to be. It does mke me laugh when an Amercian tells me they didnt loose that bloody, long disgusting conflict when the country became a comunist state as soon as the Amercians left well long over due!!

Well there are two I've found. One is a short that interviews five of the soldiers that were there (Interviews with My Lai Veterans) from 1971, and another is from 1970 which is a German made for TV film called The Harvest of My Lai. There may be more but that's what I've found so far.

While I agree that MyLai is not representative of the entire Vietnam War, I believe presenting this one incident serves a useful purpose. Incidents such as MyLai have occured in previous conflicts, and have occured in conflicts since, though the rare events in Iraq (undertaken by US soldiers) do not compare in scale to MyLai. What is important is that we try to learn from such horrible acts in order to prevent future occurences as best we can. It is ignorant to think we can control the emotions of every soldier in every battle situation, but the more we examine the "why" behind such events, the more we can try to prevent future ones.

I hope that this film makes an honest attempt to show all the events that shaped the situation - all the events that could aggregate to cause good people to do bad things. If this film takes a one-sided view and depicts the Army soldiers as thugs who simply decided one day to torch a village and kill the inhabitants then it fails as an honest depiction of events. Stone owes it to society to show how all the events of the war shaped the decisions of the men involved, and he owes it to show that such attrocities were not limited to the U.S. - it is only that our society is so open and willing to tell the tale. I doubt you will ever see a movie released by a Burmese filmmaker about the attrocities in Myanmar shown in Rangoon; Chinese films depicting how the government represses its own people rarely are shown in China, or when they are they are met with great official disapproval.

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