Winner: International Prize, Cinema du Reel, France
Winner: Special Prize, Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival, Japan
Opening Film: Madrid Documenta
A father sitting centre table, flanked by his two grown up sons and beers: this minimal construction is as geometrically sober as Leonardo De Vinci’s Last Supper. Relaxed, the man unrestrainedly recounts his experience as an Army warrant officer in Vietnam. War? His vocation as a pilot was the fruit of chance: you had to go though the army to get a career in aviation. Fighter helicopter? He had absolutely no desire to fly one, weapons meant little to him. Questioning the margin of maneuver of what the filmmaker calls “a good man” in times of unjust war, the film above all focuses on the distinctive features of his discourse. A lengthy subtitle sets the autobiographical material at a distance in the matter of the chapter titles of an 18th Century novel: The Story of How Chief Warrant Officer Wilkerson Was Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross As Conveyed to His Sons. Emphasis in on narration as an artifact (how is the exploit that nearly cost his life related?) and on the context of speech (partial, almost silent listeners). Distinguished Flying Cross, unostentatiously Brechtian, dispenses with commentary. It leaves us alone with an “embedded” story and surprising archive color images, filmed by the GIs themselves, who are in fact the only storytellers. -- Cinema du reel
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