Type of Thesis
My uncle, Mike “Dog” Davidson, was stationed in Saigon, 1969-70. When I was younger, I would always be afraid to ask him about his service in the U.S. army. Perhaps the subject is too personal, I thought, or rude of me to pry about such dark memories. My curiosities eclipsed those considerations after Dog let slip that he and his unit buddies kept a journal during their deployment (a mistake on his part after four very potent cosmopolitans). Following that, I’d ask for the journal each chance I’d get over the next five years. It must have been Dog’s threshold for pestering, because the journal turned up in my mailbox. In hindsight I feel naive about nagging him to let me see the book, but I hold no regrets after what I found inside.
The book can only be described as a stream-of-consciousness narrative. Its thick cardboard cover is draped in an army-green canvas, which is in a sorry condition at this point. On the front, in marker, it reads, “Recording Room 629.” Room 629 was the unit’s Saigon lodging in “The Plaza Hotel,” I deduced from an untitled poem glued to one of the pages. To be sure, there is no lack of anti-war expression in the book, through its drug-infused scrawlings, quips, doodles and the shaky script of journaling, it serves as a platform for well-deserved venting. Between some of the pages there are loose inserts that tell a story of the times, like a flier advertising a John and Yoko short film screening or a political cartoon depicting the Pentagon building as a peace sign.
I quickly realized that the book in my possession was a time capsule of American culture and an heirloom. I had come upon a uniquely atmospheric, poetically-expressed, true story that deserved to be told. Between November 2015 and March 2016, I produced a film based on elements found within “Room 629.” The film hinges on stop-motion animations in order to heighten the writing of its source material and to reflect the homemade quality of the book itself. These animated images are woven between interview footage of Dog speaking about Vietnam.
In the accompanying paper, written in a personal narrative style, I breakdown the film on technical and thematic levels. The paper is also reacting to the cultural paradigm shifts that resulted in the wake of the Vietnam War, the effects of which have shaped my own experience as a post-9/11 citizen. Leaning greatly on cinematic texts of war and coping like Marwencol (2010) and In Country (2014), this research collates my film with the conditions of veteran identity, especially related to Millennial identity in the 21st century.
My film, Six Twenty Nine, is viewable at the following url: https://vimeo.com/159877570/ab41df246d
Smith, Ian, "Six Twenty Nine: Journaling the Scars of War" (2016). Undergraduate Honors Theses. 1111.