Hot Docs 2014: In Country (Mike Attie & Meghan O’Hara)

2014_hotdocs_stock_imageScreening for the second time of the festival today at 12:30pm at the Lightbox is this reality blurring documentary about a group of veterans as well as some everyday people, who reenact the Vietnam War.

Weaving through the footage shot in Oregon with newsreels, sounds and images from the actual war, the line between what is fiction and fact begins to dissipate as these men sink themselves into the time and mentality. With actual vets, including an ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam), Doc who served in Iraq, as well as Tuna, there is an established brotherhood and camaraderie that already exists between them before they even don their army greens.

But why the fascination with the Vietnam war? There are reenactments of all manner of wars across the globe, but this was the first time I had heard of one focusing on Vietnam, but I remember being fascinated with it as well. And I think one of the reasons is that war, that time, signified a huge shift in culture and attitude. The counter-culture of the 60s permeated everything the Establishment had previously held dear and above repute,  and like one of the subjects of the film says, Vietnam started with crew cuts and white tees, and ended with hippies.

In era-correct fatigues and weapons, they are given the run down on slang and attitude before they hump their way through the bush looking for VC.

Before they head out, we get a chance to hear some of the experiences that those who served have experienced, and while all different, the shared experience of stress and combat and serving together runs as a common thread through all of them.

The film is simply fascinating, as 20th and 21st century footage blurs together to give the viewer an overwhelming experience of a war that most often seems to be forgotten. The attention to detail, not only the visuals but in the sound as well, helps to bring the viewer in, and then drop us in the jungle eternal that was the Vietnam war, the date no longer seems to matter.

One question, that I believe is deliberately avoided, leaving it for the viewer to decide, is whether this is just a hobby, therapy, or just a chance to play at war?

Attie and O’Hara have crafted an engrossing experience, that is as unsettling as it is enjoyable.

If you miss it today, In Country screens again 2 May at 6:30 at the Lightbox, and one final time 3 May at 4:00 at the Regent.

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