Over the years Oliver Stone and I have corresponded every so often between running into each other at press events and whatnot. The other day he wrote to remind me about the Bluray release of his Untold History of the United States, which came out on 10.15 at Amazon, Costco, Target etc. All 12 hours plus two unaired chapters. I wrote him back as follows:
“Thanks for writing, Oliver — good to hear from you. How can I get a copy of the Bluray right away? I have the screener discs from before but I want the Bluray version because of the two un-aired episodes.
“I love the Dream School mini-lecture you gave about Vietnam. (Dream School is a Sundance Channel reality series with an all-new episode debuting on 10.28 at 10 pm — “Stone returns for a second lesson to teach the students about the Vietnam War by sharing his own personal stories and experiences fighting the war.”) I somehow never absorbed the fact that you got shot twice during your tour, in the neck and your ass/upper leg. You took a bullet in your neck?
“As you may know I visited Vietnam last November for the first time in my life. Hanoi, Danang, Hue, My Song, Hoi An. I’m going back on 11.14 for 10 days — same locations along with Halong Bay, Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City.
“I may have asked you this before I left last year but I’ll ask you again — where in your time over there were the searing traumatic episodes? I know, I know — the whole war was a searing trauma. I intend to try and find the site of the My Lai massacre this time around. But tell me where else to go…any place in which something really heavy happened during your time over there.
“Here’s an excerpt from a piece I wrote last year about the opening night of the Hanoi Film Festival:
“Opening-night festivities of film festivals are exactly the same the world over, and if I was running a film festival I would deliver the exact same routine. And opening-night attendees are the same; ditto the pre-screening schmooze hour and the post-screening after-party. With a few minor cosmetic chances I could have been at any film festival anywhere. Everybody wants to be famous and well-dressed and respected and desired.
“Anyway, I was standing in the upstairs hall and listening to Hoang Tuan Anht, Vietnam’s Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, give a speech about the aspirations of the festival and of Vietnam in general, and a thought occured. I looked around at the middle-aged men in tuxedos and women in beautiful ball gowns and various expats and guests amiably chatting and the waiters and busboys running around, and I thought to myself, “The United States fought a war and lost the lives of 58,000 men to stop this?”
“The people running this event are technically Communists and that was once a fearsome term to some, but who cares now? There was once reason to be concerned about the bureaucratic rigidity and corruption of a system dedicated to fighting capitalism but look at this country now, just trying to survive and prosper and get along. People are the same the world over. People change, societies adapt, money ebbs and flows, prejudice fades.
“The U.S. fought a ruinous and tragic war so that the fathers of the people currently running things in Vietnam could be prevented from unifying the country and, in the minds of the U.S. hawks and conservatives, from helping to perpetuate worldwide Communist domination, which of course went out the window in 1989 and ’90. The left saw through the crap in the ’60s and early ’70s but now even the dimmest people in the world realize that the Vietnam War was an appalling and sickening tragedy caused by blindness and obstinacy and willful ignorance.”