We are pleased to announce a new addition to the Friendship Village film library, a German documentary titled Lighter Than Orange: The Legacy of Dioxin in Vietnam. The feature documentary is the debut of Matthias Leupold, a professor of photography and video based in Berlin. The film premiered last spring in Portland, Oregon, and was also screened by Leupold at the Veterans For Peace Convention in Asheville, North Carolina last summer.
The film is currently making the rounds in the festival circuit. Lighter Than Orange was selected for screening at the Kuala Lumpur EcoFilm Fest (Oct. 2014) and the DocPoint Helsinki Documentary Film Festival (Feb. 2015). It was an Official Selection for the Socially Relevant Film Festival in New York (March 16-22) and came away with the Grand Prize Documentary Feature Award. It was also a Gold Award winner in the Filmmakers World Festival in Jakarta (March 18-27). Next steps include distribution on DVD, including a 45-minute educational version (full is 70 mins.), and publication of a companion book.
The film will be an excellent tool for educators teaching about the war as well as activists working to boost awareness of the lingering effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. For us, it will help illustrate the role of Friendship Village in helping some of those affected.
Lighter Than Orange highlights the stories of a handful of Vietnamese veterans exposed to Agent Orange during the American war. After ten-plus years of nonstop fighting, these survivors returned home eager to rebuild their lives, only to be confronted with new challenges: numerous miscarriages, stillbirths, and children with incurable illnesses and debilitating deformities. The individuals featured in Leupold’s film—temporary residents of the Friendship Village during the time of filming—represent an estimated 4 million Vietnamese people still affected by the toxic legacy of a war coming up on its 50-year anniversary.
The soft styling of this striking film humanizes the Vietnamese war veterans—our former enemies—and helps to cushion the intensity of their stories. By visually linking the veterans’ home lives to scenes at the village, Leupold’s film conveys the fact that the young residents of the Friendship Village are the offspring of some of the people most heavily exposed to the chemical defoliant—those who fought in the war. It provides a window on challenges faced by these kids and the services provided to them at the village, while also highlighting the plight of some of the more severely disabled children who are often cared for at home by their parents, invisible to the public eye.
We look forward to touring with this film after its wider release. If you are interested in organizing a screening in the future, please let us know.