A celebrated Japanese director has returned to VietNam to film her second documentary on victims of Agent Orange (AO).

Masako Sakata, 61, says her docu-film focuses on the daily lives of AO victims, including Vietnamese veterans, as well as their hopes and dreams.

“I hope the film will help support AO victims in their legal action against American chemical companies,” Sakata says. “I don’t know when the film will be complete but I want people all around the world to know about it.”

Sakata’s first film, “My Personal Requiem”, made a big impact when it was released in 2005. It was screened in the US, France, Japan, Canada and Cuba and other countries.

Her mission to bring the plight of AO victims to the big screen has taken her all over the country. She visited A So Airport (A Luoi District, Thua Thien Hue Province) where the chemical was sprayed, where she filmed the lives of people living in the area, and visited centres where victims are treated in Da Nang City. She also met US veterans and lawyers in January to collect material for her trip to Viet Nam.

“I came up with the idea of making the first film after my husband died,” she says. Sakata’s husband Greg David died of cancer in 2003 when he was only 54. David was a soldier in the American War in Viet Nam for three years and was in Dong Thap Province where the US military sprayed Agent Orange there. After leaving the army, Greg met Sakata in the early 1970s and they fell in love. The couple went on to live in Japanese cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. Greg didn’t want to return to the US because he had “buried his sad past”, Sakata says.

Before their marriage, David told Sakata he could not have children because he had been exposed to Agent Orange during the war. “That was the only sad thing Greg told me about Viet Nam. Other things he told me about it were often about a country with beautiful nature and friendly people,” Sakata says.

When her husband died Sakata says she dealt with her grief by collecting information on Agent Orange. “I knew I had to come to Viet Nam,” she says.

In 2004 she came to Viet Nam with her friend, American photographer Philip Jones Griffiths, who has photographed AO victims during the last 30 years.

“I found victims everywhere. Children who were not even born then are suffering from all kinds of deformities and illnesses. In spite of such difficulties and poverty, everywhere I found love, caring, and warmth. Meeting the victims and their families helped me heal.”


Picture credits to Pixiduc.