This work is a documentary film dealing with the damage done by herbicide during the Vietnam War. The Director of the film is Ms. SAKATA Masako. During the students' unrest she met with photo-journalist Greg Davis and married him. First, she worked at the news photo service, Imperial Press, together with Greg and later, in 1995, she became the President of the same company. In 1998 she founded IPJ, the largest photo-technical Agent Company in Japan, becoming its first president. This film is her first production.
Her motivation to make this film was Davis Greg's death in 2003. Greg participated in the war in Vietnam as a soldier, from 1967-1970, before coming to Japan. After retirement, he worked for the famous Time magazine and later after becoming independent was actively involved in documentary production till, due to cancer of the liver was interned in a hospital on April 19, 2003, where he died on May 4 of that year.
Since the beginning of their marriage he told her that he had, most probably, been soaked up by "agent orange" (herbicide used during the war in Vietnam) and consequently he didn't want them to bear children. Mrs. Sakata did not pay much attention to his words, but disappointed by his rapid death, she investigated about the effects of herbicide and decided to make a film. From 2004 to 2006 she studied in the USA the fundamentals of film production and interviewed victims and families affected by herbicide in Vietnam and the USA, as well as returning soldiers from Vietnam and scientists. In 2007 she made this documented film.
The film draws the life of the victims of herbicide all over Vietnam. American military used over 76 million liters of herbicide during the war in Vietnam, from 1962 to 1971. Various kinds of herbicide were contained in drums divided by colors and about 64% were placed into containers of orange color, thus they are called "Agent Orange." A byproduct included in the "Agent Orange" is dioxin, one of the worst poisonous elements of human kind. Dioxin gets accumulated into the human body and, not only causes a disease to those bathed by herbicide but also produces heavy damages to the children to be born. According to WHO there are about 4,800,000 patients with disabilities in Vietnam, as a result of herbicide. The damages reach 2nd and 3rd generation children.
The "Peace Village" of Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City conducts rehabilitation programs for children born with disabilities occasioned by herbicide. Rehabilitation for those with heavy disabilities consists in just standing up a while or trying to sit down. Answering an interview the Director of the hospital said, "It is a pity to have to advice abortion to those mothers who had been found bearing babies with heavy handicaps, but thinking about the burdens to the parents and society there is no other way."
Such urban medical facilities are still much blessed, but families in rural areas with children with disabilities have to fight desperately. It took a mother 2 days to recover from her shock at seeing, for the first time, the face of her disabled son right after her delivery. Now, her child requires constant care but she is able to say, "Look, he is always smiling." His two sisters nestling their cheek on their brother's fondle with him. All family members help each other, no matter their poverty, and subsist heroically.
The Friendship Village is an institution built in Hanoi by war veterans of Japan, Canada, Germany, England, France and America. They offer rehabilitation to children victims of herbicide so that they could adapt to society and become self-sufficient. American war veterans assisting in the administration of the institution angrily criticized the American government for not providing any compensation to the victims.
On January 2004, three Vietnamese victims sued the Chemical factory that produced herbicide at the American Federal Court, demanding apologies and compensation, but the Court dismissed their appeal. They presented their demands again and, on February 2008, their cause was rejected. They still plan to fight up to the Supreme Court. The American government maintains that there is no connection between dioxide and disabilities and the Chemical Company insists that they produced herbicide by demands from the government, thus the government is the one that should compensate them. Up to now, not a single Vietnamese victim has received any compensation. Even now, the Chemical Company continues the production of medicines that affect the gene. War is not over yet.
(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)