In January 1998, 45 Americans and 20 Vietnamese made a 1, 200-mile, sixteen-day bicycle trip from Hanoi to Saigon. Most of the Americans and some of the Vietnamese were veterans of the American war in Vietnam. Many were disabled, including three blind riders. Four VVA members—Pat Craney, Diane Evans, Bob Maras, and Jerry Stadtmiller—made the trip, which was put together by World T.E.A.M. Sports, a non-profit group that promotes sports opportunities for the disabled.
The heralded documentary filmmaker Peter Gilbert (Hoop Dreams) put together Vietnam, Long Time Coming, a two-hour documentary aired on NBC TV in December of ’98. And now Kartemquin Films has brought out the DVD.
The film’s admirable themes are reconciliation, healing, and overcoming physical disabilities. There are a ton of scenes of American veterans crying, hugging, and talking about their fears, suicide attempts, and other highly personal issues. Which is not a bad thing—when put in the proper perspective. But the movie is short on analyzing the big picture and long on capturing unrehearsed moments of emotional upheaval. Plus, there’s an unnecessary side trip to My Lai, which is an important place, but why put it in a movie that promotes reconciliation?
For more info, go to www.kartemquin.com/films/vietnam-long-time-coming