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Jimmy in Saigon

Country: United States, Language: English, 89 mins

  • Director: Peter McDowell
  • Writer: Peter McDowell
  • Producer: Dan Savage

CGiii Comment

All families have secrets. Most families have a pain they never want to re-visit...even for the sake of closure.

Peter McDowell needed closure...for the big brother, he barely knew. For his family

Imagine...being drafted into the military, sent to Vietnam, tour completed, sent back home...only to return as a civilian as the war roared on. Jimmy McDowell did all that...the tragedy is, he never came back home. He died, in Saigon, aged 24...leaving behind a slew of unanswered questions...and, for his family, an undiscussed and hidden shame.

Patience, perseverance and many a platitude later, Jimmy's story starts to unfold. There were letters, addresses, photographs and suspicions to help with Peter's investigation. All he had to do was piece them all together and fill in the gaps...easier said than done! There was a war raging then and time has a way of forgetting - trips to France and Vietnam yielded little, apart from walking the same streets, staring at the same walls as his brother had...all those years ago.

After a major breakthrough, a second trip to Saigon...brings about a connection, a confirmation...and, ultimately, for that elusive closure that was so needfully sought.

An animation provides a jolt...of what could have been and, hopefully, was. The power of photographs will astound, not only for the emotions they stir up...but, for the company, comfort and companionship they offer.

Peter McDowell persisted where many would have given up...there's an aching love that runs throughout this film...hopefully, that ache has dulled a little, now that Jimmy's story has been told. This is eulogy. This is investment. This is love.

To Jimmy and Dũ now.


Jimmy in Saigon Teaser from Peter McDowell on Vimeo.

The(ir) Blurb...

Director Peter McDowell was just five years old when his brother Jimmy, a Vietnam veteran, died in Saigon at the age of 24. In the decades that followed Jimmy’s tragic passing, his name was rarely mentioned by his grief-stricken family, nor was his cause of death ever truly determined. Frustrated by the secrecy – and possible shame – of his parents and desperate to uncover the mysteries surrounding both Jimmy’s life and his death, Peter ventures on a quest for the truth in an effort to finally get to know the brother he barely remembers. Piecing together fragments of information from old photographs, letters and interviews with those closest to Jimmy, McDowell’s elegiac documentary is a beautifully crafted and heartfelt commemoration of a queer life nearly forgotten.

Michael Blyth

Cast & Characters

Jimmy McDowell (as Self)