Keywords: propaganda films, mobile units, experimental documentary, nation building, 1960’s, Vietnam War, American War, Ngo Dinh Diem, Madame Nhu, fall of Saigon, April 30 1975, archive, counter-archive, 16mm film, Library of Congress, re-enactment

Unidentified Vietnam No. 18 is a successor to the seventeen films in the Library of Congress South Vietnam Embassy Collection labeled only “Unidentified Vietnam, # 1-17”. Initiated by these 1960’s propaganda films, the project calls into question the policies and politics of nation building.

Lin + Lam investigate the contested relationship between Vietnam and the US, and counter mainstream media by asking viewers to re-define the ways historical understanding is constructed. With exacting attention, the directors mine the material artifacts of the archive, fingering deteriorating film labels and paging through catalogue lists. Situated within the present, the filmmakers inhabit the past by re-enacting propagandistic gestures, such as a pledge of fidelity and a military exercise. Spectral images salvaged from a now non-existent republic haunt the mausoleum-like hallways, reminding us of what remains unidentifiable in the process of recovery. Through these actions of retrieval and remembrance, the film ponders how US intervention has failed, and considers the dangers of its repetition.

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Unidentified Vietnam No. 18


16mm film, colour and black & white with sound, 30 min.

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