tv Q A CSPAN October 26, 2014 11:00pm-12:01am EDT
>> there's a sea of humanity jamming on. we're we're leaving them behind. people are pulling off the air stairs. >> as the minority vietnamese army closed in, saigon and south vietnamese resistant crumbled, they began to consider the certain impressments and possible death of their south vietnamese allies and co-workers. but with an official vietnamese, they took matters into their own hands to execute the evacuation and save as many south vietnamese as possible. ms. kennedy talks about her
career as a film maker and her family's history. he's the daughter of robert f. kennedy and ethel kennedy. >> can you remember when there was a vietnam war? >> well, i was 7 when the events took place that we document in the film the "the last days of the war" which is 1975. there's not a moment where i remember vietnam. but i feel like it was kind of in the ether of my childhood. it was in my consciousness. i have always felt that there was a seminal event in our nation's history. i was happy to have the opportunity to revisit vietnam nd through this particular story of -- of the final days of the war. >> did you go there at all?
>> i never went to vietnam. my intention was to go there. ut we -- you know, the story that i wanted to tell from the vietnamese perspective is about the vietnamese who were left behind and what happened to them. but we were told that and i did extensive research that nobody in vietnam would talk to us about this time in history, particularly who had done imprison or torture or they kind of struggled in the ftermath of the war. there was fear and concerns of government retaliation and repercussions. so that -- because their story is 100% in 1975, you know, eally in those final days, there's not really a big story to be told about what's going on in vietnam today other than what happened to the people
left behind which is obviously a significant part of our story but we ended up finding a number amount of people who helped provide that perspective. >> how do you and your husband divide up the responsibilities n something like this? >> well, technically i'm the producer and director. and he's the writer. but mark is really my partner in all of my feature documentaries. e decide whether i should do them together often and he from the beginning when i'm doing interviews and selecting characters and kind of the general direction of the story, he is a part of the discussions. ometimes they're formal. sometimes it's over dinner, with the kids screaming across from us. but he really plays an essential role particularly in this film, which i would say the biggest challenge for us was in the edit room because it was such a complicated story. there were so many erspectives. there was trying to orient the audience some of whom are familiar with vietnam, some of
who aren't. we didn't use a narrator. we didn't use any historians or experts liking -- looking back. it was all in realtime. so that made it challenging. so he played a huge role along with my other writer don and kevin mechanical lister. -- kevin mechanical lester. >> what was the biggest initiative in getting your parameters to this story? and how many days are involved in the documentary? >> well, we knew we wanted to take on the last days of vietnam and you know, i think a lot of us are familiar with the iconic image of the helicopter going off what we thought was the embassy. it was in fact, not the embassy. > what is that building? >> it was the c.i.a. outpost basically. initially the plan was there
were 13 buildings that helicopters -- they had option four, four options which was a helicopter airlift. there were 13 buildings that they were going to have helicopters leave from, but once they called for the evacuation by playing the song "white christmas" throughout the streets of saigon if you recall from the film, then the streets got so crowded and overrun with people, you know, largely south vietnamese that nobody could get to those buildings. so they ended up centering the entire evacuation out of the -- ut of the embassy. >> what was it that you saw around that cast a light early for you? >> i would say there were two things. one -- was i was familiar with that iconic image and i wanted to understand that more and hat had happened, right? and i thought i knew a lot. as i did the research, i was
really blown away by the actual events and what took place and how dramatic they were and how i knew very, very little of it and how important it eemed. so part of my entrance was to share those events with people because i fought that a lot of other people didn't know what happened and then we were -- we started to uncover these really extraordinary stories of americans and vietnamese who went against u.s. policy which at that point was to just get the americans out of the country because the north was coming in so fast and saigon fell much quicker than anybody xpected. south vietnam fell much quicker than anybody expected. so the policy, there was about 6,000 americans at that point. we had the peace corps in 1973. and there were no troops in the country.
and so it's people who are military personnel who are protecting the embassy, you know, advisors an whatnot. so the idea was to just get them out of the country. and these americans who were on the ground basically said not so fast, we have our south vietnamese allies, people we worked with, many of them had ives and children. many of them were south vietnamese and we were about to leave them behind. we started uncovering them and getting deeper into those stories, then i was really excited because i felt like these stories nobody knew. or so many americans vietnam is such a dark moment in our history and the acts of these men who were there were so heroic and courageous and, you know, when i watched the film even though i've seen it too many times it really makes me proud of them, you know, in his wave of history moving
against them and this tied that they did the right thing. >> where did you go to high school? >> i went to madeira. >> right out here in the suburbs of washington. and you went to brown university. >> did anyone at madeira or brown university teach you about the vietnam war? >> at brown, yes. i took a course about the vietnam war. this story was not part of that curriculum. so i did not know this story. >> so many people today said that no one ever teaches a man about the vietnam war. there isn't a lot talk. but why isn't there a lot of talk in your opinion? what are the lessons of vietnam? before we get into that we're going to show some excerpts of the film >> right. well, i would say there are many lessons about vietnam in terms of what i feel like i've earned in making this film is -- and having a deeper appreciation for getting out of a war after having made this
film. that i feel that there were very few options available in 1975 or early april when it became pretty clear that the country was going to fall. and, you know, we were trying to get congress or kissinger and ford were trying to get congress to pass a bill that ould provide $722 million to the vietnamese. i think that would have been helpful and make some difference. i don't think it would have changed things so dramatically. so what it says to me the real hoice is when you enter a war, and when you enter a war especially when it goes into a lesson you don't anticipation which is losing there are virtually no options. you know that decision of entering a war and
understanding i think from the beginning what the exit strategy is, what the goals re, what the time line is. and having an appreciation for what the impact is going to be because now they're saying, i think they're making this film has taught me is reminder of he human cost of war, which is significant in which you see in watching this film. and i think sometimes gets lost in the debate of what we're doing and the strategies and the plans. you know, what is -- what's the cost on the ground to the people who are most directly impacted and affected. >> let's watch about two minutes of this and it shows the north vietnamese coming south back then and get you to explain some more. this is the way my map looked in mid april. the north vietnamese just rolled down the coast.
saigon was clearly threatened. the situation was urgent -- urgent understates it. >> at this time ambassador martin had been back in washington trying to persuade congress to vote additional aid. he came back to saigon and the chief said go on and tell the old man what's happening. >> i went in and said, mr. ambassador south of the vietnamese army has disintegrated. we're in grave trouble. please, sir, plan for an evacuation, at least allows putting together a list of south vietnamese we should escue. and he said, no, frank, it's no so bleak and i won't have this negative talk.
young officers in the embassy began to mobilize a black operation meaning a makeshift nder ground railway evacuation using outgoing cargo aircraft that would be totally below the radar of the ambassador. > people like myself and others took the bull by the horns and organized an evacuation. in my case, that meant friends of mine who were senior officers in the south vietnamese military. as the north vietnamese came closer and closer to saigon, these people were dead men walking. >> we're back to the ambassador graham martin. what part did he play in this? >> so graham martin was the ambassador and he was really the gatekeeper in some sense. he has the authority to green light the evacuation plan.
the evacuation plan is created by the military. but the ability to approve it and to put it in motion is really left in the hands of the ambassador. graham martin had lost a son in the vietnam war. he was very dedicated to preserving south vietnam. he didn't want to see us walk away from south vietnam. and i think largely for those reasons he was resistant to putting in an evacuation plan nto place and green lighting it early on when most people both on the ground and to some degree in washington realized that south vietnam was going to fall and that it was inevitable. >> frank snap, former c.i.a. agent and was sued by our own government. why did you pick him as a pokesperson?
>> well, we weren't really committed to finding people who were on the ground -- well, we were really committed to finding people who were on the ground, who were in saigon at the end of april when things were flying and he was -- he was there. he was sued by our government because he wrote a book about the events that took place. i don't believe that he would sue because he misrepresented -- he was sued because he -- in he capacity that he did. but the reality was that he had very good firsthand knowledge and i think helps us explain the story for folks and to understand exactly what appened. >> where is he today? > he's in los angeles. >> doing what? i know that he's writing some
scripts and pitching some ideas to make into films. but i don't know if he has a job beyond that. >> scott harrington you see a ot of him during the film? >> so stew harrington was the captain in the u.s. army and he -- he plays a significant role because he was at the forefront of these events as we document them. and he also helped on a number of levels getting vietnamese ut of the country. he was one of the people -- this clip shows started a block operation, black ops in mid april when it was very clear to him that the country was going to fall and that he wasn't getting approval from the mbassador. and so he started getting high risk vietnamese out of the country with a group of other eople. he was basically have a meeting spot, put them in advance, take them to the airport and send hem off on cargo aircraft. so he helped initiate that effort.
he also continues on where our story ends up landing which is in the embassy on april 29th 1975 when the evacuation is really underway. e helped start that evacuation and he is there to the bitter end. he was in a -- in a particularly difficult predicament where he stayed throughout the night and the ambassador doesn't come across very well in that clip but he does to some degree redeem himself in the film when you see that he was asked to be -- the first person to leave the embassy on a helicopter. he was told he needed to go. and he refused to get on the helicopter. he wanted to get as many vietnamese out as possible. and so he among others were trying to fill the helicopters with south vietnamese knowing
that once the americans got out that the u.s. government would stop the evacuation. so he played a big role in that. in any case, coming back to stew harrington, he then stayed there throughout the night helping vietnamese get on these helicopters and about 3:45 in the morning, martin got a presidential order saying that he had to get on the next helicopter out which was the second to last helicopter. so the ambassador left at 3:45 and then probably the third to last helicopter and they were told that there were going to be no more helicopters for vietnamese. so stew harrington had to tell the 420 vietnamese who were left behind who were still in the embassy and he had to tell them that they were in american soil. he wasn't going to leave until they all left.
and he left them in the courtyard. he said he was going out to the backyard and he walked to the back side of the building and walks up the staircase to a helicopter that was waiting on the roof. and so the son was coming up. e looked down at these 420 people who were left behind and, you know, he saw how wrong this was and how it kind of encapsulated the vietnam war in that moment. >> do you have any idea -- we have about a million and a half vietnamese -- a lot of children have been born since that -- those days. we have very few iraqis. very few were allow into the country. why did we bring so many from vietnam and so few from iraq or ven afghanistan? >> well, the events of this film and in those -- that last oment there were about 130,000
vietnamese who -- who were able to get out of the country. and then over the next couple of decades they were -- the plight of the boat people where millions of vietnamese fled vietnam and some of them were able to get to america. hundreds of thousands died uring those voyages. i think -- you know, it's a curious thing. i think with vietnam and the ietnamese people we did have a profound connection to them and, you know, i don't think you see the marriage rates that, you know, in iraq and afghanistan between soldiers and iraqis and afghanis. our soldiers married a lot of vietnamese and have a lot of vietnamese children. so i think the relationship between the two countries and e really fought side by side
with them and they -- in a pretty united fashion. o i think that it was -- there were different wars and cultures and different people. and so i think it speaks to kind of those larger cultural issues and the natures of those wars. >> here's some more video for somebody my age, i remember this like it was yesterday. the helicopters being pushed off to ship. the name of the ship? >> the u.s.s. kirk. >> and the helicopters belong to? >> the helicopters belong to the south vietnamese air force which had then fallen apart. and so if -- can you give me a moment to set this up? >> sure. >> so what was happening is there was a fleet in the south china see, the u.s. fleet and there were helicopters going from that fleet. u.s. helicopters were going to the embassy picking up people an bringing them back to the
fleet and then what happened is the south vietnamese air force had disintegrated but pilots were there still and they still had their helicopters. so then started getting in heir helicopters, filling them to capacity and beyond and chasing the u.s. helicopters out to see not knowing where they were going, having no communication with the united tates but feeling that the risk of going out to sea and not knowing where you're going to land which was less than the risk of staying behind and what could happen to them. so the u.s.s. kirk was monitoring the helicopter between the sea and the land. they took the risk to take the irst one down. >> so we had to disarm them.
no one had ever landed on a ship before. hey were in the air force. >> less than a minute. >> so we had to disarm them. >> never landed on a ship before. >> about five minutes later another one came in and landed. he and -- and we pushed his irplane to the side. i helped push that one over too. and the third one, a plane came in. it landed over. we pushed it over the side. we were throwing three helicopters in the water. this is incredible. i know you probably don't believe this but it's all rue. >> how many helicopters were ushed over the side? >> on the u.s.s. kirk, i think there was 17. think there was about 157
people that they saved, bringing the helicopters own. the issue with the u.s.s. kirk was it was not one of the ships from the fleet and so it meant to land helicopters. so it only had space for one helicopter. the question is what do we do? we can't land a helicopter if we can't keep them onboard. so the captain said throw them overboard. i said did you get approval from washington? no, absolutely not. we just made the decision on the fly. you know, we would live with he consequences. so they really had no choice. and people asked well, why didn't they just get some pilots and throw them in the
helicopters and go back? but they didn't have pilots onboard, the gas, or the wherewithal to do that. and the helicopters that they had were chinook helicopters which could fit 50 people in them. and the smaller helicopters could only fit four to maybe six. >> you told us -- i think actually six when the end came. returned seven later on that year? >> yeah, i guess technically. >> but how -- you and your husband did this. he wrote it. you produced it, directed it. how did you protect yourself? there are a lot of people from vietnam, americans that know his. how did you do that? because you're going to face a lot of people asking about the vietnam war? >> we did a lot of research and it was -- it was interesting the -- the research process because there were so many conflicting reports. and i think part of why things got to the point where helicopters were landing on the embassies or on the embassy roof was in part because the
communication breakdown. and -- and, you know, that was real, what was happening, what washington knew, the information they were basing the 420 people left behind. kissinger claims that he only learned that in 1992 or something and that that was in hearing stewart harrington's story for the first time. he never knew that. he thought when they were -- this is what he claims that when they were -- they sent the last helicopter that they were getting the last people out of the embassy. so my point is that there was o much misunderstanding on the ground and miscommunication that it took a lot of double sourcing things, you know, getting resources on the same event and trying to get to the truth of it. but i'm happy to say that we
have, you know, screened it in multiple cities now. it's on the brink of its theatrical release. it hasn't come out in new york. so far there have not been any major claims of misinformation. there was one little thing that i i we got wrong. but i think "white christmas," we have it as a big production version. other than that there's been no significant difference. >> who's version was it? >> it was -- i can't remember but it was supposed to be bing rosby's version. but then things got very hectic and the people at air force radio couldn't find his version. it was debated but seems to be corrected. >> how many documentaries have you made? >> 40, that i've either produced or directed. >> where do you live? >> i live in los angeles. >> why there? >> my husband, mark, is a screen writer.
so we moved from brooklyn to l.a. about five years ago. >> how old are the kids? >> georgia is about to turn 12. bridget is 10. and zachary is 7. >> how long did you work on this documentary? >> 14 months. > total? >> from when we started development to when we locked picture. >> how long is it? >> it's 97 minutes. >> and what kind of a exhibit is it going to have? theater, television? >> it's in theaters. so it had its theatrical premiere in new york in september 5th and it's opening september 12th, this friday. it will go to about 15 cities total theatrically. and we're also doing community screenings. we are also doing pbs and on
the 40th anniversary of the fall of saigon. >> here's some more of your documentary. >> thank you. >> i went to my wife to the embassy. a lot of people, they couldn't et in. >> the side gate was the principle place where they came. people holding mutters saying i work for the americans, please let me in. they were arriving, counting on being recognized by the marines.
>> there was a sea of people wanting to get out by helicopters. but well, they looked up at the helicopters. and i could see their eyes. desperate eyes. >> who's the vietnamese gentleman? > that's dan pham. and he -- he -- he was really an extraordinary man who as so many vietnamese at the time tried desperately to get out of -- ut of the country. he had worked with the u.s. government and so he was
particularly vulnerable. he had been promised a way out through the company he had been working with but then they left. and so the plan for evacuating people fell apart because it was supposed to happen after the country fell. so he was left -- he -- he had an opportunity to get out of the country at one point. ut it would have meant leaving is family and others behind. so he -- he ultimately chose to stay but he then spent 13 years in hard labor in a re-education camp. >> did you talk to him about it? >> yeah, of course. >> what did he tell you? >> you know, it was rough. he barely survived. it was -- there was very little food to eat. some, you know, often one meal a day. and they -- they worked them around the clock. many people died over the course of those years that he was there.
he -- i talked to him a week after the interview and he told me that he was still shaken by it to putting these memories up for him was very difficult. and he was one of the few people, the film premiered at the sundance film festival. i invited him to him us there. he wouldn't come because it was too hard for him to watch the movie. so he hasn't seen the film yet and i don't know that he will. >> i read that 30% of the vietnamese live in california, southern california. do you notice the vietnamese? >> a lot of them live in orange county. and i don't spend a lot of time in orange county but i have been to little saigon, they call it. nd it's amazing. there are pockets of vietnamese but it's largely orange
county. >> how many vietnamese that you talked to explain? where there others besides this film? >> there were other gentlemen, five. i don't know the exact umber. e interviewed a few more who didn't end up making it in the final version. but it was very important to me to, you know, this is very much a film from american perspective largely. but, you know, the heart of the film is understanding what it meant to leave the vietnamese behind. so their perspective is essential. >> you talked to henry kissinger. how many minutes did he give you? >> he said he would give me 45 minutes but he ended up giving me an hour and a half. >> what did you learn from him that you didn't expect? >> well, you know, i think that was was surprising to me about
the interview is i felt that he was emotionally present and invested in recalling these events. and i was struck by the -- his ability -- i think he was 89 at the time that i interviewed him to recall every event that i asked him about down to often the minutes of when it took place the information he had and the decisions he made based on the information he had at that time. so that was both helpful ecause we rely on interviewees to explain events to us because we don't have a narrator. so he was able to, i think document what happened from washington's perspective during this tumultuous period. >> how much of the interviewing
do you do? >> i did probably 95% of t. >> and what's your experience from interviewing people? would they give you a straight answer, give you the truth? if you don't get it, how do you -- what do you do? >> you know, things that people have their own perspective and you know, i don't -- i don't try, you no, i don't believe in a single truth, right? and i think that that was very evident in making this film that there were people with a lot of different perspectives. there was one person that argued that the chaos of the embassy was a myth. but everybody else talked about the numbers of people at the embassy and how chaotic it was when there's the footage to show it.
it's an odd thing that, you know, you can have people who are present at the same event, but of course, it was 40 years ago and their recollections are different. i think part of it is the choices you make as a film maker and who you trust and so for example, stewart harrington lays a significant role in this film because he's -- he comes across as a trustworthy narrator of events. he's believable and he feels he's emotionally present. he's also present throughout all of the events and the time period that we're focused on. >> here's the story of a vietnamese pilot, i believe in a chinook, big helicopter that flew out with his family. we'll listen a little bit of this and get you to comment on it. >> ok.
great. >> my mom grabbed my little sister who was about 6 months at the time. and i had a little brother who as 3 or 4 years old. myself. e quickly ran into the chinook . we all flew out -- out into the pacific ocean. my dad was afraid of not having enough fuel. and then he saw a ship throughout that was way too big to land. >> we thought that the helicopter would just fly away. but as the ship was moving forward probably four or five six knot something like that, the pilot communicated that he was running out of fuel. >> he hovered across the stern, kirk.
then all of a sudden here comes a human. one by one we jump out. i jumped out. my brother jumped out. my mom was holding my ister. obviously very scared. and she just -- trustingly with one hand with her right hand holding on with her left to brace herself and just dropped my baby sister. one fell -- >> that footage comes from what source? >> well, i was very fortunate with this footage because when i was developing this film, i was in contact with a guy named jan herman who worked with the u.s. navy. he was saying that i wanted to tell the story of the u.s.s. kirk in this film and he said oh, i from a friend who was on he kirk.
he found a box of undeveloped ootage and it was all of the kirk and including this extraordinary story where the pilot, you know, drops his family including his baby on to the boat and here he then -- he goes crashing down and everybody thinks he's died and they've watched it. now his family is onboard on ship and is very emotional. over on the right there, this is the sun -- over on the right side of the screen there, you can see the helicopter pilot. >> how many hours of footage -- and the gentleman's man who shot the footage. >> dan lucera. >> how many did he give you? > he gave us, i think about 10 canisters of eight minutes of
footage each. >> how many did you use? >> we used 12 minutes of footage on the film. it was amazing. >> what was your reaction? >> he said do you want danny's number? said yes. so i called him the next morning an i was out in california and he was outside f washington, d.c. and he was very protective of the footage. so he wouldn't fedex it out to me. i sent him an airplane ticket and flew him out to california and we developed this footage out there and it was really, you no, it was a treasure-trove. > at the end of the sequence was his footage. he then -- there's footage on the ship where the father reunites with his family. there's a story about richard armitage where he helped save 30,000 vietnamese and that
whole story is documented through dan lucera's footage. >> we're going run that. i heard you talk about richard armitage. and you didn't tell the story he ended up in prison in the philippines? >> yeah, he did. he didn't get authorization to bring 30,000 people to the philippines. when i interviewed him he just decided to take 30 people. and i decided to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. he expected they would say no because there was a sense that there were a lot of vietnamese coming out of the country and that the u.s. wasn't going to be able to handle it. anyway, he made the executive decision on the fly to bring these folks with him. e spent two or three nights in a makeshift jail and a friend
somehow rescued him. >> filipino jail or american jail? >> i think it was an american jail. >> connected to the military? >> yes, it was connected to the military, that's my recollection. >> and richard armitage went on to do what? >> from there, he worked under powell and so he played a significant role during the bush administration. >> let's watch that clip. >> ok. >> there were no words to describe what a ship looks like that holds 200 and it's got 2,000 on it. i don't think anyone understood the magnitude of it. -- until we looked at what we got in front of us. it looked like something out of exodus. our mission was to get out of international waters.
but now we've got all these people. my reaction is how the hell are we going to do this? most of the vietnamese and navy ships were dead in the water. some were anchored, some were just adrift. and so we sent over some people to see what we could do to help hem and get them underway. >> we had worked a plan out to sail two ships to the philippines. and kirk was going to escort them. but the fact that they're going to be crammed with an unknown umber of civilians was somewhat problematic. the u.s. government already had a refugee problem at the u.s. naval ship. this was 30,000 people to deal
with. >> i'm convinced if we sent them back or took them back they would have killed them all. armitage decided to bring hem. he didn't get permission from washington to do that. >> i thought it was a lot easier to beg forgiveness than to get permission. so a decision was made and they ll went with us. >> that's dan lucera's footage. it really captures that moment. you know, all those people what's so extraordinary to me about that is these are people who have just lost their country and all of them -- they don't have a bag with them. they have the shirt on their back. many of them separated from heir families.
it's such an extraordinary moment to imagine -- i mean, imagine losing america and being on a ship and heading out o sea, you know, without any family or any connection to where you were going. and that's the story of each and every one of those. and they went to the philippines, some of them went from the philippines out to guam. but most of them came to the united states. and resettling here. you know, it's been such a successful story of culture and population coming into this country. and they've contributed so much. i'll say that it's one of the great things about having done this film is showing it to the vietnamese community because i think for them, they really haven't had the opportunity to kind of process this event and
i think be recognized in this country for what they went through to get here. >> has anybody not that this would happen directly, thanked richard armitage over the years? >> i don't think they have. and i really think he's deserving of some medal for it. you know, i got an e-mail from his son many months ago saying thank you for sharing this story. i never knew this about my father. you know, i don't think he's the one to kind of boast about himself which i really appreciate about him. but yo know, i think if i were responsible for 30,000 people i might mention it to at least a few people. >> before we run out of time, i want to talk about some of the other documentaries you've done. this one will be very familiar to people. it was an hbo documentary. -- a couple of years ago. it's called "ethel." here's the trailer. >> why should i have to answer all these questions? >> well, we're making a documentary about you. [laughter]
>> because i was born six months after my father's death, i never had a chance to know him. i was raised by my mother, ethel kennedy. >> it wasn't love at first sight? >> it was. >> my parents were bedrocked democrats. but i just totally put those republican parts behind me. the children were always encoded in everything we did. i think it probably made them more interesting. >> any occasion to have a party, there would be a party. >> she'd have every single member of president kennedy's cabinet knocked into the swimming pool. >> win. that was important. trying hard, not part of the culture. >> losing isn't any fun, ok? >> especially after daddy died, we learned sports from mommy. >> while the rest of the world was grieving and the controversy family was grieving, she saw the best in
it. >> nobody gets a free ride. everybody faces friends who have died or family. >> what do you attribute your success to? >> this is the effort that we made in the campaign and ethel. >> your sister carrie and courtney and your brother joe and there's others in that documentary -- before you talk about that. how did you go get know your dad? >> he was gone when you arrived six months later after the assassination. how have you gotten to know him over the years? >> through my mother and my siblings primarily and the people who knew him. i think, you know, i also learned about him in school and history ooks and then, you know, one
of the things that have been so wonderful for me is taking these films out, going to different places, you know, traveling to africa and south america and inevitably wherever i go people come up to me and tell stories about -- and they're always firsthand stories of meeting him and having some kind of extraordinary moment and it's -- it's really wonderful and then of course making this film about my mother, i had the pportunity to interview my siblings and my mother and, you know, i think we go through life and there's not always the time to sit back like you do and be able to ask all the questions that we want to ask of our family and you know, it rovided that moment. o that also gave me, you know,
deeper insights and then going through incredible archival footage. i was very familiar with the outtakes that were in various films over the years, but to really go in and see the source material that there's -- that's a particular experience and -- and i have to say that one of the things that i found in going through that source material was that there was a genuineness to him every step of the way. >> did you ever listen to any of the oval office conversations with lyndon johnson? >> i did listen to some of those. >> what was your reaction to some of that -- he talked about the vietnam war. >> yes, he talks about the vietnam war. you know, i listened to a range of them. i thought they were really fascinating and insightful. i remember one engagement where he was negotiating with his hair dress tore try to get a better fee from the hairdresser. johnson.
so, you know, he certainly provided insights to both his personal sensibility as well as, you know, some insight into vietnam and other. >> your mom talks about her parents being republicans and conservatives an obviously on he other side liberals and emocrats and all that. from what you know what was the difference in the families because you see in your documentary your mother's parents were well off. what made them republicans and what made the kennedys democrats? >> i -- i don't -- i don't know that i can capture that right now right here. but i think, you know, you think it comes from mostly a long lineage of where they all came from. i think that for my father's side of the family going pretty far back there had been an interest in public service and elected office and politics. i think that for my mother's side of the family that they were honestly generally speaking less interested in olitics.
and he my grandfather didn't go to college. you know, he was a very successful businessman and that interested him from the business tons that he was pursuing largely. so i think it was just a different background perspective largely. >> did you not want to talk in that documentary about your mom? >> almost all of my siblings spoke. one of my brothers decided not to. >> is there a reason why he didn't want to go on camera? >> i didn't ask him. i really just asked all of them. i told them what i was doing and i really left it up to them because i didn't want to pressure anybody if they didn't want to.
i thought it was so nice that so many of them -- i think for everybody it's not particularly comfortable to talk about ourselves and to talk about our family. and so i think that, you know, but everybody has so much respect and admiration for my mother and i think they really wanted to recognize her and all her contributions. >> here's another documentary you did on abu ghraib. it's only about 45 seconds. i wanted to ask you why you did this. >> ok. >> at which point did you say it's enough? >> you can do whatever you want to do to them. we need that information. >> you all went crazy if you didn't get to what you were seeing. >> it was never clear what was not allowed.d or
>> unlawful combatants don't have any rights under the geneva convention. >> there is no such things as a little bit of torture. >> "ghosts of abu ghraib." >> that's seven years. why did you do that? hbo? >> that was hbo. you know, those images were -- were -- had come out and i was interested in understanding why people would choose to both take those photographs and ngage in the horrific acts that we saw in those images and ask other people to do so. what i discovered and so the film really focuses on people who took the photographs and what they did. and you know, what i became very evident in talking to all those people is that they were given pretty strong orders from
pretty high above to engage in -- in pretty -- in acts that were very similar to what we witnessed, to break the prisoners down and to, you know, when they -- when the prisoners came in to abu ghraib they were forced to be naked. that was one of the things that happened to all of the prisoners. and so to prepare them for interrogations, they asked these young guards who were often 19, 20 years old that, you know, in order for us the interrogators to get the information we need they need be very vulnerable by the time t comes to us. so do whatever it takes. play high music, intimidate them, humiliate them, do whatever it takes. did they say put them in a pyramid and take these mages? no. but they did kind of set the conditions for these events to ake place.
and, you know, one of the, i think, great tragedies about abu ghraib is the people who served time were all the people who were on the front lines but he people who had the orders that came from the very top of the bush administration never served any time or faced any repercussions. >> one last play back to the documentaries on the last days of vietnam and this is the -- too many people trying to get out of there. let's watch this and we'll wrap it up. >> the last question was the crowd getting any smaller? when are we going to finish this, you know? they said we're doing the best e can. >> aerial pilots were saying, look, it's a sea of people ambassador martin has lost his object activity.
he is trying to evacuate all of saigon through the u.s. embassy. but he was doing his best under errible circumstances. >> ambassador martin was dragging it out as long as he could to get as many south vietnamese as soon as possible. >> each helicopter took about 40 people. he knew that once the americans were gone, the evacuation would be over. >> so they just put one or two americans on each one. >> so what do you want people o take away from this? >> well, i think that this is such an important moment in our nation's history and so i think we should know what happened
during those final days at the vietnam war. so i'd like them to -- to have that knowledge and i think, you know, it's also a moment where they were extraordinary people who did exceptional things. and it's really, you know, within the context of our general and overall abandonment of the vietnamese who were a handful of americans that would make you really proud. and so i think it -- it's worth, you know, celebrating them and -- and witnessing their story to help us even on a deeper level understand what happened in vietnam and then i would say lastly, you know, as we're getting out of these wars in iraq and afghanistan and there are people who are now made to be more vulnerable because of their association
with the americans whether they were translators orations who worked in the country, drivers who ever it was that we have responsibility to them. it goes back to -- i think what powell said you break it, you fix it. and you own it. and so i think that it's important to -- to recognize the -- the -- the work that people have done on our behalf in iraq nd afghanistan and our responsibility to them. and as we're debating getting nto deeper engagement with isis, maybe, you know, getting back into iraq, going back into syria that we have a proper understanding of what our exit strategy is. >> shouldn't do this with only about a minute left, but the name rory kennedy does what positive things for you when you do a documentary and what negative? hat do you run into? > i would say largely it's a positive. and i think that, you know,
there are certainly doors that have been opened to me because of my last name and people's connection to my family. i think that, you know, there are certainly -- on certain issues for certain people there's more resistance or a sense that i come in with a particular sense of politics or, you know, that i might bring to -- to a film -- and that was to some degree the case with this. there were some people who were sensitive to who i was. but you know, everybody who we ultimately approach came around and agreed to speak with us. and some may have done it because of my last name. so others were maybe a little more resistant. >> are you working on another documentary? >> i have somebody developing in my head. i'm dedicated to getting this film out there as much as possible. >> "last days in vietnam." our guest has been rory kennedy. and we thank you very much. >> thank you. it's been a pleasure. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]