Agent Orange: A Personal Requiem

Directed by Masako Sakata

66 minutes / Color
English / English subtitles
Release: 2008
Copyright: 2007

As a young man in the late Sixties, Greg Davis served for three years in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. The area where he was stationed was one of many throughout the country sprayed by the military, as part of its counterinsurgency strategy, with millions of gallons of defoliants, including Agent Orange, which contains dioxin, the most toxic chemical known to man.

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After his military service, Davis married and worked for decades as a photojournalist for Time and other publications worldwide. In 2003, at the age of 54, he died from liver cancer, believed to be the result of his exposure to Agent Orange. Produced by Davis's widow, AGENT ORANGE chronicles the history of this lethally toxic herbicide, tracing its effects not only on her husband and other U.S. servicemen but also on the environment and continuing generations of Vietnamese.

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Davis's personal experiences — recounted through photos and audio recordings, archival footage, reminiscences by his widow and a fellow photographer — are complemented by U.S. Army films declaring the defoliants to be "harmless to man." AGENT ORANGE also documents the broader human tragedy, featuring interviews with Vietnamese doctors, a U.S. Army veteran who has returned to do humanitarian work in Vietnam, and heartrending scenes of generations of Vietnamese children with congenital disabilities or physical deformities.

More than three decades after the spraying of Agent Orange was discontinued, dioxin still contaminates the Vietnamese environment and its traces can now be found in the body of everyone living in the country. AGENT ORANGE concludes by discussing a 2005 lawsuit on behalf of Vietnamese victims, naming Dow Chemical and Monsanto among 37 other firms, brought before a Federal Court in New York City.

"This moving video, lovingly crafted by Sakata from recent and historic footage and photographs, is both a fitting memorial to Davis and a thoughtful exploration of the legacy of dioxin contamination… Highly recommended for adult collections in history, Asian studies, and the environment."-Library Journal

"A remarkable film… Sakata's moving film brought back to me memories of the Vietnam War, the war of my generation, with great poignancy and power."—Roger Pulvers, The Japan Times

"A visual poem… beautifully shot, well-composed… The film features heroes and heroines possessing wisdom, courage and fortitude beyond imagination."—Joan Widdifield, KUSF, San Francisco

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Select Accolades

  • Special Prize of the Jury, 2008 Paris International Film Festival
  • 2007 Tokyo International Women's Film Festival
  • 2007 International Festival of New Latin American Cinema


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