The movie The Road to Freedom opened today (Friday, September 30) in theaters in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Austin, Texas. The film is a fictionalized look at what happened to Sean Flynn, a 28-year-old free-lance photographer (and the handsome son of the dashing movie star Errol Flynn), and his buddy Dana Stone after they disappeared in Cambodia in April of 1970. Their fate has not been determined. Most believe Flynn and Stone perished at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.
The movie, an indie that was shot in Cambodia in 2009, did not exactly go over well with the critics. The film, “though heartfelt, isn’t very good,” Walter Addiego wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. “The script is stilted (‘Whatever is going on here is bigger than you and me both’) and the acting ranges from amateurish to acceptable.”
Jeannette Catsoulis, writing in The New York Times, concurred, calling the film “a bona-fide howler. Right from the get-go maintaining a straight face is impossible… Clogged with grandiose pronouncements and bleeding-heart speeches, this telling of Sean’s ill-fated journey drags us through miles of jungle and reams of stilted, soul-sucking dialogue.”
Kevin Thomas in The Los Angeles Times was a bit kinder in his mixed-to-negative review: “Tall, rangy Joshua Frederic Smith creates a fearless, determined Sean while Scott Maguire’s Dana is more cautious, and they give decent portrayals under [director Brendan] Moriarty’s direction. While it is impressive that Moriarty was as capable as he was, making his feature debut at age 20, his film needs more shape, more nuance and more punch. Its strongest asset is its gorgeous natural scenery.”
Posted on September 30th 2011 in Feature Films
Journalist Marc Phillip Yablonka’s 2010 book, Distant War: Recollections of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, which we reviewed in the March/April 2010 issue of The VVA Veteran, has a new publisher: Navigator Books. For more info, go to the author’s web site.
Posted on September 19th 2011 in Book News
Michael Stern Hart, the man who is given credit for inventing the electronic book in 1971, died September 6 following a heart attack at his home in Urbana, Illinois. Hart who was born in Tacoma, Washington, grew up in Urbana. He dropped out of college, was drafted into the Army, and served in Korea during the Vietnam War.
He came home and graduated from the University of Illinois in two years. It was there that Hart came up with the idea for the electronic book. ”He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” Gregory B. Newby wrote in his obituary of Hart on the Project Gutenberg web site. “On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network.”
The rest is electronic book history. Hart went on to found Project Gutenberg, one of the first and best online literary projects.
“Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world,” Newby said. “The invention of eBooks was not simply a technological innovation or precursor to the modern information environment. A more correct understanding is that eBooks are an efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature. Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, and the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity.”
Posted on September 11th 2011 in Arts on the Web, Book News, Obituaries
Vann Nath, one of Cambodia’s most promient artists, died of cardiac arrest on September 5. He was 65 years old and was one of a handful of survivors (only two of whom are alive today) of the notorious Khmer Rouge secret prison and torture center known as Tuol Sleng (or S-21), where some 14,000 men, women, and children were interrogated, tortured and executed during the 1975-79 Killing Fields that followed the end of the American War in Vietnam.
Vann Nath’s artistic skill and renown, in fact, saved him from being executed. The Khmer Rouge jailors spared him and put him to work painting and sculpting portraits of their leader, the notorious Pol Pot. Vann Nath escaped from S-21 in 1979 when the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and liberated many of the Killing Field prisons.
The prison later became a genocide museum whereVann Nath worked for several years. His paintings depicting the brutality he saw in S-21 hang in the museum today. Among his other artistic endeavors, Vann Nath worked with Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh on the documentary, “The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine,” and wrote a memoir, A Cambodian Prison Portrait: One Year in the Khmer Rouge’s S-21 Prison in 1998.
Posted on September 6th 2011 in Art, Obituaries
Susan Fromberg Schaeffer, the novelist whose books included the Vietnam Warp-themed, Buffalo Afternoon (1989), died at age 71 on August 26. For that book, her eighth novel, Schaeffer interviewed a good number of Vietnam veterans. She centered it on a Brooklyn teen-ager who undergoes a hellish tour in Vietnam and then has serious readjustment problems after coming home.
“I did not find it difficult to write about men in war,” Schaeffer later wrote. “Everyone believed it could not be done by a woman—as if men would somehow be alien beings to a member of the opposite sex. I have never understood that attitude.”
The book received excellent reviews. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, for example, the late Nicholas Proffitt, the former Newsweek Vietnam War correspondent and novelist (Gardens of Stone), called Buffalo Afternoon “one of the best treatments of the Vietnam War to date, and all the more impressive for the fact that its author never heard a shot fired in anger or set foot in that country.”
Posted on September 4th 2011 in Book News, Obituaries