Vietnam Memories

Ricardo Ainslie’s new documentary The Mark of War airs Sunday

Vietnam Memories

On Sunday, Oct. 28, the Austin Film Society hosts a screening (sponsored by Humanities Texas) of filmmaker Ricardo Ainslie's post-Vietnam documentary, The Mark of War (3pm; doors open at 2:30). The film juxtaposes extended interviews of seven veterans (most are Texans, including local artist Gordon Fowler) with (sometimes harrowing) archival footage of the war, selected to help illustrate the veterans' memories. Though the war is now nearly 50 years past, the interviewees maintain vivid memories. "That one year in Vietnam, it defines me," says one. "It's who I am."

Ainslie, a multidisciplinary professor at UT-Austin, is a practicing psychoanalyst as well as an author and filmmaker, and his interviews of the veterans walk the edge of profound intimacy while focusing on the directly personal effects of combat and its aftermath. "The destruction of character has to happen," says one man of his military training and service. "It is necessary for survival. But once that happens, how do you become a normal person again, just to fit into the world?"

Several men say they experienced lasting psychological trauma from the war, although some of it only surfaced for them years later. "Nothing could get you ready for Vietnam," says Fowler. "I don't care how much training you have, you're not ready for that."

The interviews largely avoid the political or historical consequences of the war, or its effects on the Vietnamese. One veteran, Eduardo Garza, does recall seeing the Vietnamese from his own perspective as a Mexican-American. "It was a world very similar to rural Mexico," he recalls, and he asked himself, "Why am I here to kill them?"

Ainslie describes the "close, intimate tone" of the film as its distinctive feature, and his style in interviewing the men "on and off" for more than 10 years as "open and reflective." Humanities Texas is reaching out to veterans who'd be interested in the very personal memories of these comrade soldiers. The film's conclusion recalls contemporary military actions in the Middle East, where soldiers are "doing the same things we did." Says another: "Everything I thought about war was completely wrong."

Screening, followed by Q&A: 3pm Sunday, Oct. 28, at AFS Cinema (6406 N. I-35). More info:

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