Film is a meaningful artform that gives its director a way to deliver creative content through both a visual and oral means. The creator is allowed to dig deeper into the content and create an emotional connection with the audience while making the topic come into a more focused view. This method of film can be especially used when director’s create films based on historical events. On the February 16th, the power of film was displayed in full force when CATS Academy Boston welcomed a historian and filmmaker, Michael T. Barry Jr., who introduced his film The Universal Soldier: Vietnam. The film focuses on the nature of the Vietnam War while discussing both Vietnamese and American perspectives about the war.
How did you come up with an idea of making the film “The Universal Soldier”? Where did you get inspiration from?
The title itself comes from a protest song “The Universal Soldier” of the 1960s, which questions the whole idea of going to the war, since all humans share the same universal feelings and emotions. My collaborator, Karen Turner, professor at the Holly Cross, decided to develop this content with the material that she had collected over the years. Also, we wanted to reach out to the millenniums, who are so distant from the war, in the way that was both compassionate and intimate with those experience.
What is one thing you would like to highlight from “The Universal Soldier”?
Without any doubts, those conversations with veterans, who were going through all the struggles. At the same time, I was taken aback by how generous, kind and giving veterans were. Both Americans and Vietnamese. All these individuals were open minded and wanted to share with young people the continuous impact wa hadr on their lives, and what they have been through. Coming back to the question, I don’t want to underscore the generosity veterans had in their approaches to people. I haven’t seen this among many others individuals.
Besides the emotional part, your research involved factual information, which was based on the cruel reality of the war. Did you have any doubts about showing the devastation of the Vietnam War before the process of filmmaking?
Yes, absolutely. At the beginning we were anxious to push young people away by talking about violence. We had to do it delicately, but it turned out that our audience was mature enough to embrace it. Another challenge for us was to deal with emotions. Our fear was that sensitive material might set some patriotic veterans off, which rarely happened later in process.
To reach your audience in the most accurate way, did you use filmmaking as a technology or more in an artistic way?
It was done mainly in an artistic way. The initial idea wasn’t to show the technological process in the film industry, but to let people speak out. It was purposefully filmed with small cameras and microphones, so that interviewees don’t feel pressure. We were aiming to get the most authentic stories with less technologies, as the oral historians.
As a historian and a filmmaker, what do you see as a goal for your career?
My biggest goal is to give voice to people whose stories were unheard and marginalized, especially by the government. As well I want to make both veterans and audience a part of these projects to integrate tolerance and acceptance in our community.
From Your own experience, what advice would you give to young filmmakers?
That’s a tough question. But I would say: be open. When it comes to interviews or any content that includes other people and their stories, it is important to stay respectful to their life-stories and emotions attached to them, so that they don’t feel embarrassed. To be a good filmmaker in this kind of genre is to stay collaborative.