Alissa’s note: Ken Morefield, a long-time contributor to Christianity Today Movies and a cinephile and critic for whom I have great respect, writes a monthly post we’re calling “The Long Tail.” Each month, he looks at a few films that are being primarily distributed to American audiences through DVDs or Internet streaming and tries to surface some movies that might otherwise fly under the radar. Look for a new column every first Tuesday of the month!
As with most years, there’s a front-runner for the Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars—Laura Poitras’s Citizenfour. But I won’t be surprised if we hear Rory Kennedy’s name after “. . . and the Oscar goes to . . . ” The nominations hint that the Academy may still be a tad more comfortable with strongly political films that embed their ideological arguments into an historical narrative. (And the more remote that history, the better.)
Kennedy’s film Last Days in Vietnam, which is now available to stream on Amazon and other platforms, is fairly conventional. It deftly mixes archival footage, talking heads reciting stories, and some sparse but effective special effects to help contextualize the images and memories that form the bulk of the story. If voters are already tired of the red-state/blue-state reductionism in the dialogue surrounding American Sniper and Selma, Last Day’s conventionality may turn out to be an asset. It certainly won’t hurt that Kennedy is popular on the documentary festival circuit, where those of us who love the genre are well aware of her work promoting the films of others. (Among other titles, she is listed as a producer for Liz Garbus’s feature Bobby Fischer ...1