Film Series and Museum collaborate for ‘Dear America’ documentary
September 6, 2013
Last spring, the Park City Museum and the Park City Film Series joined forces to show Kip Pastor’s 2012 documentary "In Organic We Trust."
The screening was a tie-in to the "Eat Well, Play Well" exhibit that was on display at the museum.
The collaboration and cross-promotion was such a success that both nonprofit organizations wanted to do it again, said Katy Wang, executive director of the Park City Film Series.
When the museum opened the traveling Smithsonian exhibit "Mail Call," which traces the history of the U.S. Postal Service from the Revolutionary War to the War in Iraq, Wang and the museum’s program coordinator Lauren Miller began brainstorming.
"We knew we wanted to do something similar with the Museum’s ‘Mail Call’ exhibit and we looked through some films," Wang said during an interview with The Park Record. "There aren’t a bunch of films about mail and the military, but then I stumbled across two [documentaries] by Bill Couturie — ‘Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam’ and his second film "Last Letters Home: Voices of American Troops from the Battlefields of Iraq’ — and they were unbelievable."
Wang was especially drawn to "Dear America."
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"As an American Studies major I had seen a lot of films about Vietnam, and I feel that is a very important moment in our history," Wang said. "It was very well documented as far as wars went, because it was the first war that was seen on TV in the news and connected the American public to it."
The film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1988, won the special jury prize and was nominated for the grand jury prize. It is filled with actual images of combat and candid footage of the troops during their down time and the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack features the music of the late 1960s and early 1970s, Wang said.
"It’s a powerful way to give a voice to these soldiers and illustrate their humanity and addresses some moral issues," she explained. "It is such a beautiful film. I think it gives a voice to these soldiers and, more importantly, gives them some recognition, because not all of those whose letters are read in the film survived."
"I was struck by how personal and engaging this film was and wanted the community to experience it as well," she said. "You really get a sense, as painful as it may be, of what it was like being the family [of a soldier] or living in that time."
Miller said filmmaker Couturie decided to make ‘Dear America’ and the follow-up film "Last Letters from Home" because he wanted to give people the opportunity to have a unique and touching experience.
"Unfortunately, the people who have family members who are fighting in today’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have said they get a sense that America doesn’t get a feel for what is going on over there," Miller said. "So the screening partnership with ‘Dear America’ is a nice way to bring a historic display into the present and make the topic applicable to the now."
There will be a question-and-answer session following the screening, Wang said.
"We’re going to feature some vets who live in the Park City area," she explained.
Miller is excited the museum is part of the collaboration.
"It was a great way to bring the community together and reach people we don’t always reach," she said. "This film is a tribute to our soldiers and, hopefully, we’ll get a fantastic response to it.
The Park City Film Series will present a special free screening of Bill Couturie’s 1988 documentary "Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam," rated PG-13 at the Jim Santy Auditorium at the Park City Library and Education Center, 1255 Park Ave., on Thursday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. The screening is a collaboration with the Park City Museum’s "Mail Call" exhibit that is on display until Oct. 20. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityfilmseries.com .