Sarasota Film Festival’s Opening Night, April 4, 2014: Red Carpet with VIPs, Rory Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam” and After Party with Fireworks at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Sarasota Film Festival is one of the exciting events that annually take place in the beautiful Sarasota area for lovers of the art of filmmaking, documentaries, and educational programs. This is my second year attending the SFF, and the first time as part of the Press. I had the opportunity to experience the remarkable Opening Night on April 4.
Filmmakers, artists, local dignitaries, special guests, and board of directors of the Sarasota Film Festival 2014 proudly walked on the Red Carpet at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. The media, including reporters, photographers, and writers, among others, caught the amazing atmosphere of festivity with their flashes, cameras, and video recorders.
A very inspiring moment during the red carpet was the welcome to a special group of veterans associated to the documentary “The Last Days in Vietnam.” Another impressive spotlight was the arrival of the producer and director of this film, Rory Kennedy, who posed for pictures with her mother Ethel Kennedy, her daughter Bridgett, the former Governor Charlie Crist, and the President of the SFF Mark Famiglio.
Documentary screening of “Last Days in Vietnam”
Before the premier of the film the “Last Days in Vietnam,” it was an opening ceremony with words given by the SFF Director Tom Hall, and Rory Kennedy; in addition, it was a presentation by the Brotherhood Veterans who marched to the stage carrying flags and honoring the event with their performance. A public recognition was also done to militaries and other veterans who were in the audience.
Impacting was this documentary the “Last Days in Vietnam” that shows an untold side of the history of the Vietnam War in its final days. It was very interesting to learn how US militaries and diplomats in humanitarian and brave efforts evacuated not only American citizens, but also many innocent South Vietnamese citizens before the entrance of the Communists in Saigon during that crucial period of devastation.
Following the opening night film with a running time of 98 minutes, it took place a discussion panel with R. Kennedy, T. Hall and other important guests such as the retired Captain of the U.S.S. Kirk, Paul Jacobs, featured in the film, and other troop members. Outstanding questions and comments were done by the audience; for instance, among the participants a lady of Vietnamese origin Bich Mai Saunders raised her hand, then she stood up and caught the attention when she emotionally shared part of her story stating that at the age of 13 years old she was rescued by American soldiers who helped her to leave Vietnam and to come to the United States; also, she expressed her feelings about the film and her gratitude to the veterans.
The documentary “Last Days in Vietnam” reflects the history of a war that sadly took several years of tragedy and killed many innocent people; however, at the same time this film reveals the other side of the coin when the life of Vietnamese children, women and men were under risk and were heroically saved by civil and military Americans.
Opening Night Party
A splendor of fireworks illuminated the sky of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall for the Opening Night Party. The Banquet room had the Rockin Soul Band playing nice music to entertain the attendees and very good stations of food and desserts for their delight. People mingled and exchanged opinions about the opening night film.
I had the opportunity to speak with some of the veterans, and one of them was the retired Captain of the U.S.S. Kirk, Paul Jacobs, who expressed to me his satisfaction of his service in the military. I took some pictures of Mr. Jacobs with the Vietnamese lady Bich Mai Saunders; also, she shared with me a little bit more about the pain and suffering she had in her “Last Days in Vietnam.”
For the rest of the Opening night party, some people were dancing at the rhythm of the music and others were talking about the next events scheduled during the SFF 2014.
Sarasota Film Festival
Last Days in Vietnam (2014)