Battle of Long Tan film hits screens in August
A SCAN of the cinema where Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan premiered during the Sydney Film Festival revealed a large number of Millennials and GenXers, and three-generation families.
The sold-out showing of the Australian movie provided a chance for a reflection by them on what the surviving men and women, many aged in their early adulthood when were they sent to Vietnam, have carried deep in their memories and why their lives have been moulded by the trauma of that war.
Producer Martin Walsh said Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan provided a chance for him to "modernise our Anzac heritage". "It creates new Anzac myths and legends, and importantly, immortalising an entire generation of Vietnam veterans," he added.
The movie was filmed over eight weeks. It explores the August 18 1966 battle between 108 Australian and about 2500 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers. Eighteen Australian soldiers lost their lives and another 250 or more Vietnamese.
Over three and half hours in a Long Tan rubber plantation in monsoonal conditions, members of the largely inexperienced D Company's 10, 11 and 12 platoons, under the leadership of Major Harry Smith, fought with incredible courage and determination as their ammunition ran out and the decisions of those left in the battle headquarters left them exposed and alone.
In response to a question from the audience, at the end of the film viewing Mr Walsh said he was aware the film would press a lot of buttons. "I think this film honours the memory of these men and the Vietnamese that lost their lives," Mr Walsh said. "The film is deliberately apolitical."
About 150 veterans and family members watched the movie several months before it premiered. Among them was Harry Smith. Not Travis Fimmel who played Major Smith in the movie, but the real Commander of D Company, Harry Smith. "Everybody thought it was bloody good," Mr Smith said.
"During the movie, when I seeing my soldiers being shot and you saw a graphic picture of the bullet hole through the centre of the man's forehead, I had tears in my eyes while watching that part of the movie.
"It would be the easiest thing in the world to bring on PTSD although I don't suffer terribly bad from that, though my wife says I do.
"Overall, the story line was per the Commander's book. There were a few things that they changed to add a bit of dramatisation into like Travis Fimmel, who was playing me, was running around with a 45 calibre pistol firing at the enemy who was charging at him. Well, that didn't happen but I suppose it sounds good; a bit like cowboys and Indians."
The movie is confronting. It provides a chance for younger generations and those that did not see service in Vietnam to witness a close-up view of the intensity of the conflict. Friendships are challenged, very human interactions recounted, decision-making under incredible pressure and leadership analysed, and deadly outcomes shared.
"I think young fellows that have a sense of sanity about them would be advised to see the movie and see what their fathers and grandfathers did in fighting the war in Vietnam," Mr Smith added. "Anyone who has anything to do with military history should certainly see it to give them an idea of what went on."
It's a compelling movie and well worth viewing by all generations.
Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan will be in theatres from August 8.