IU professor takes fresh perspective in documentary about Vietnam War
Ron Osgood, IU professor emeritus and documentarian completed his documentary in August 2017 telling stories from those involved in the Vietnam War.
Now, over a year later, he is touring the country and screening his film for hundreds of people.
âJust Like Me: Vietnam War Stories from All Sides,â a 2018 Emmy award-winning documentary, tells the stories of veterans, civilians and refugees from both sides of the Vietnam War.
The inspiration for the documentary came from another documentary about the Vietnam War that Osgood produced, âMy Vietnam, Your Iraq,â which featured interviews of families who had relatives involved in both Vietnam and Iraq wars.
While interviewing American veteran Arthur Barham for the documentary, he told a story about finding letters in the possession of a dead enemy soldier. When his platoon translated the letters, they found that there was one written by the soldier himself. When Barham read the letter, he found that the dead combatant was talking about things he and his fellow American soldiers also wrote in their letters.
Reflecting back, Barham told Osgood he realized the enemy was just like him. They were both just trying to get home.
In the following years, Osgood would go on to conduct more than 150 interviews with veterans of both sides and civilians who were affected by the Vietnam War. He wanted to create a documentary that humanized both sides of the conflict and showed people they have a lot in common.
"I want them to gain an understanding of their fears of the unknown," Osgood said. "We don't know the person we fight against."
He said that he has learned through his interviews and travels to Vietnam that people are capable of putting the past behind them and moving forward.
Although he submitted his documentary to a few film festivals and submitted it to PBS for a documentary series, he eventually realized that the screenings would be more effective in university and museum settings.
âI like taking it to universities because itâs a chance for young people to learn a little bit about this particular time in history, especially since my content talks about humanizing the former enemy and being able to look at the differences in culture and accept someone for who they are,â Osgood said.
From this tour, Osgood has learned that his audiences, young or old, have found at least one way to connect with one of the stories included in his documentary. Although at times it can be challenging to show this film to a younger group, he said he believes that getting them to watch will help open their eyes to the struggles men and women go through during war.
During his stop at Radford University in Virginia, on the weekend of Oct. 6, he talked to five different classes about the Vietnam War. Talking to t he classes allowed the students and him to learn new things and experience the story from different perspectives.
He described the visit as a very rewarding experience.
While on the trip, Osgood also received some news about another opportunity for his documentary.
His film will be shown Jan. 3, 2019, at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., as the closing event for the Remembering Vietnam exhibit, which began in 2017.
âI am humbled and excited,â said Osgood. âThis is, for me, one of the best opportunities that I have had in my work.â
The original version of the documentary is available for purchase through IU Press, and there is a copy located in the Bloomington Public Library and Wells Library.
Additionally, there will be a showing of Osgoodâs documentary at 11 a.m. Nov. 10 in Bloomington City Hall, sponsored by the City of Bloomington.
âWith this program, we hope to honor individuals who have served their count ry or been touched by war, express our gratitude for their service, extend our compassion for their suffering and learn from their experience,â said Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton in a press release.
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