(Also in Telluride Film Festival.) Running time: 90 MIN.
In “Starting Place/Point de depart,” militant American documaker Robert Kramer movingly revisits Vietnam and the people he filmed in his 1969 short “People’s War.” A favorite with auds at Locarno, where it premiered, “Starting Place” should find a welcome home on TV, after an extensive run at fests and in specialized theatrical venues.
Docu is the work of a mature filmmaker. It’s both more open to reality and more critical, with far less propagandistic appeal, than the 40-minute “People’s War,”which passionately championed North Vietnam, an underdeveloped country whose success against U.S. technical sophistication, he suggests, depended on the mobilization of the entire population to the war effort.
Two decades later, Kramer finds Vietnam poised between its communist past and the beginnings of a market economy. The images are edited eclectically, mixing past and present, and viewers are free to draw their own conclusions.
A strong counterpoint to Kramer’s Vietnam-today footage is his interview with anti-war activist Linda Evans, who went to Hanoi with him in 1969. Now serving a 40-year sentence in a California prison, Evans articulates an astonishing commitment to her ideas, despite the evident strain of prison life, which leads her at one point to break down in tears.
Kramer’s intense involvement with the country during the war years lends the docu great poignancy. Even the simplest shots — slow pans over the landscape, a war-damaged Hanoi bridge, people going about their business — ring out with relevance, like a painful, half-buried memory brought to the surface. Filming is of a high technical standard.