"Regret to Inform"
A film review by
Linda L˙pez McAlister
"The Women's Show" WMNF-FM 88.5
Saturday, January 22, 2000
I'm writing today's review while sitting in a hotel room in
Taos, New Mexico where I've spent the week helping the folks at the Taos
Talking Picture Festival (ranked one of the ten best film festivals in
the world) evaluate entries for this year's festival that will be held
in April. It's very appropriate that I'm reviewing "Regret to Inform"
this week because it was one of the films shown at last year's Taos
Talking Picture Festival. It was also nominated for an Academy Award
Like most documentaries, you probably won't be able to see this
film in a theater, but you will be able to see it on television Monday
night, January 24, on WEDU in Tampa or whatever your PBS station is, on
that wonderful program called P.O.V. that has been bringing us the best
independent films available for many years now. I think it's usually
only on in the summer, but be thankful that they're broadcasting a
segment of P.O.V on Monday night because you won't want to miss "Regret
This is among the most heartfelt and moving documentaries you'll
ever see. It is the work of a filmmaker named Barbara Sonneborn who
wrote, directed and produced it. She is one of the many thousands of
women, both American and Vietnamese, whose husbands or loved ones were
killed during what we call "the Vietnamese War" and the Vietnamese call
"the American war." Although after receiving the "Regret to inform..."
telegram, she eventually remarried, built a career, and got on with her
life. Yet, more than twenty years later, she still felt that she had
not really come to terms with her loss. She came to know that the only
way for her to find closure about this death would be to make a
pilgrimage to Vietnam and see for herself where her husband had died.
It was this most remarkable trip that gives us this beautiful cinematic
plea for the end of war.
Barbara Sonneborn first sought out other American women who had
lost husbands either in Vietnam or later as a result of their injuries,
emotional as well as physical. She also sought out Vietnamese women
who shared the experience of losing loved ones in the war and so much
more because the war was fought in their homeland and involved massive
violence against the civilian population. The stories she captures in
this film are gut wrenching and tragic. For me the most poignant was
the story told by Xuan Noc Evans, a Vietnamese woman now living in the
USA, who married an American soldier after her Vietnamese first husband
was killed in the war. You'll definitely need a good supply of Kleenex
while you watch this film.
"Regret to Inform" is a film of extreme visual beauty, photographed
exquisitely by cinematographer Emiko Omori whose work you may have seen
when her own film "Rabbit In the Moon" was broadcast on P.O.V. last
When Sonneborn reaches her destination, her guide may well have
been leader of the Viet Cong guerilla unit that killed her husband, but
the two women are united by the horrors of the war that their husbands,
for the most part, found it impossible to talk about. It makes you
realize vividly that the names on the Viet Nam Memorial tell only a part
of the story; these women and their children are also casualties of war.
But they can and do give voice to their experiences and their belief
that no doctrine or cause is so important that it is worth subjecting
people to the carnage and inhumanity that is war.
For the WMNF Women's Show this is Linda Lopez McAlister on Women
Copyright 2000 by Linda Lopez McAlister