“It’s a story about humanizing the enemy.”
This is how guest speaker Ron Osgood, Vietnam War veteran, professor emeritus from Indiana University and film director, introduced his Emmy winning documentary film on the Vietnam War titled “Just Like Me: The Vietnam War/The American War."
On April 1, Osgood was welcomed to the University of Kentucky on behalf of the History Department for a viewing and discussion of his film. “Just Like Me” is a documentary created to divulge the many ways in which acts of humanization were able to seep into a war-torn Vietnam, from both sides of the fight.
Some of Osgood’s previous documentary work includes “Shirts & Skins: The Psychology of Pickup Basketball,” “Climate Change in National Parks,” “Trouble No More: The Making of a John Mellencamp Movie,” which garnered him an Emmy, and “My Vietnam, Your Iraq,” an official selection at eight film festivals and broadcasted on PBS in 2011. Aside from winning yet another Emmy for his approximately three years of work on “Just Like Me: The Vietnam War/The American War,” the film was also selected to be screened at the National Archives “Remembering Vietnam” exhibition in Washington D.C.
Before Osgood’s film screening at UK, he paid a visit to Professor Armando Prats’ film class. Prat’s class is dedicated to analyzing the history and theories presented by the Hollywood western, and how the ideals implicated in those films were reflected onto the generation that fought in the Vietnam War.
Osgood talked to the students about why a documentary film is effective at telling this specific story versus a Hollywood feature film, his goal in making “Just Like Me” and some of his experiences during and after Vietnam.
“Who is telling the story is really important to a documentary, and I think I was the right guy to tell this one,” said Osgood.
When asked how he first got interested in film, Osgood spoke of how he spent some of his time over in Vietnam working on an aircraft carrier. His job was to record the take-off of planes, providing him with his first real introduction to filmmaking. After his time in Vietnam, Osgood was one of the more fortunate veterans to be immediately enrolled in college. From there, he took to studying media and his passion to inform people and create change in society grew.
After speaking to the class, Osgood headed over to the William T. Young Library for the screening of his documentary. Gathered throughout the auditorium seats were professors and students alike, as well as interested Lexington locals.
Osgood’s film revealed the importance of recognizing the humanity of each other during times of violence and tragedy. Immediately following the opening title of the film, images of soldiers from both Vietnam and the U.S. flashed across the screen, side by side. The film incorporated stark, transportive visuals as well as emotionally provoking interviews from soldiers.
“My grandfather is a veteran so that’s one of the main reasons I chose to come to the screening. It was super interesting for me,” said Emily Smith, a freshman studying psychology and integrated strategic communication.
Osgood’s film also featured an interview with Tim O’Brien, author of “The Things They Carried." O’Brien discussed the responsibilities and guilt soldiers have to endure for their country’s freedoms.
A large portion of the film was also dedicated to unveiling an entire layer of artistic and musical expression within that Vietnam War that soldiers from both sides needed in order to retain a sense of humanity in such an inhumane place.
“My goal was to tell the story from all sides,” said Osgood.