“It seems like I’ve been working on this film all of my life, ” says Deryle Perryman (above, right ), the co-producer of the in-progress documentary “Same Same But Different, ” which looks at American Vietnam veterans who have returned to the former war zone to work on humanitarian projects. Perryman served a 1967-68 Vietnam War tour as a crew chief on a 175mm howitzer with the 5th Battalion, 22nd Artillery in the Central Highlands. One of the ways he has been dealing with that experience has been by writing about the war and its veterans. And making this film. After a career as a probation officer and working with young people (among other things), Perryman himself has returned to Vietnam a dozen times.
One such trip led to the idea for this film, which is being co-produced by Moises Gonzalez. The veterans profiled in the documentary “have quietly returned to their former battlegrounds to clear unexploded ordnance, work with victims of Agent Orange, and build schools and orphanages, ” Perryman says.
Five years ago Perryman and Gonzalez finished their documentary Dangerous Highway , which tells the story of the late Alabama blues singer Eddie Hinton. While they were making it, “during our numerous trips to the South, Deryle told stories about growing up in Florence, Alabama, and those stories inevitably led to his joining the Army and going to Vietnam, ” Gonzalez said. “Vietnam and its aftermath became more and more insistent until it became apparent we were going to have to make another documentary.”
The two went to Vietnam in 2008 and 2010, traveling throughout the former South Vietnam recording oral histories mainly from American veterans. In Nha Trang, they interviewed former Viet Cong General Nguyen Monh, who invited the filmmakers to a traditional Tet dinner with his family.
“I’ve come to realize, ” Perryman says, “that the Vietnamese aren’t mad at us. They even give Vietnam veterans some status. They say, ‘You were just young and dumb and doing what your parents told you to do.’”
General Monh’s toast to Deryle (in the above photo ) was: “So good to see men who were former enemies come together in harmony.” Monh, who fought against the French as a young man, told Perryman that the American soldiers were “tenacious, very tenacious… and so very young.”
The film also will include archival footage, rarely seen photographs, original music, and interviews with Vietnam veterans in this country, many done at the August 2007 40th anniversary meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Perryman told us that he hopes the film will help his efforts to build a school in the Central Highlands. He and Gonzalez have set up a fund-raising mechanism to secure the money they need to finish the film at the website Kickstarter.com
“If one Vietnam vet or Iraq War vet or Afghanistan War vet can see this film and see that there is healing that can take place after a war, then I’ll feel like we’ve accomplished something, ” Perryman says.