My Father’s Vietnam: An Interview
Filmmaker Soren Sorensen talks about his five-year process for making the documentary "My Father's Vietnam."
Written by Zac Scott | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
Soren Sorsensen describes the five-year process of making his documentary My Father’s Vietnam, which was recently accepted into the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
First-time filmmaker Soren Sorensen wrote, directed and edited the feature-length documentary film, My Father’s Vietnam, which screens on August 6th as part of the Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF).
However Sorensen was not always a prospective filmmaker.
Attending Berklee College of Music, Sorensen found his passion in film scores. He cites some of his earlier influences as being John Barry, John Williams, and Howard Shore. It was while working on a film score for a production that Sorensen crossed paths with Director of Photography Dan Akiba, and got the idea that he could do a film of his own on a subject that was very personal to him, his father. Sorensen describes the allure of a “personal story with a historical event as the backdrop.” And his father’s experience in the Vietnam War was just that.
My Father’s Vietnam chronicles Sorensen’s father Peter Sorensen’s time in the Vietnam War, as well as the stories of two men he served with, Loring Bailey and Glenn Rickert, who were both killed in the war in 1970. Sorensen describes the film as a “walkabout” through a subject in our history not often talked about by its constituents.
“Getting in touch with strangers on the Internet to ask them about the most painful experiences in their lives can be tricky,” Sorensen says, stating he approached the subject “with caution,” In some cases, Sorensen was denied an interview because the tragedy of what happened during the war was too painful to recount. Sorensen says he had to do a lot of “reassuring” that he wasn’t out to get anyone.
Sorensen funded the project with his own money, and he traveled everywhere from Arizona, Pennsylvania, to Vermont and Washington DC to interview his subjects.
He also did the voice-over and editing for his project, which, all and all, took a little over five years to complete. When asked what his favorite part of the filmmaking process was, Sorensen replied, “…the interviewing. Getting to know someone deeply and talk about serious topics is something I enjoy very much.”
When asked what his biggest boundary during making this film was, Sorensen replied with a laugh, “fear of failure,” that and “fear that the work isn’t finished” was always in the back of his mind.
Since completing the project, Sorensen has worked on a number of other short documentaries as well as another feature length documentary on Cuban-born musician Omar Sosa, entitled Omar Sosa’s Eighty-Eight Well-Tuned Drums, which Sorensen has been working on for close to two years and is near completing. Sorensen learned about Sosa through a piece he was writing on him for a magazine called Tribe, and was intrigued by his background and style, describing Sosa as a “conceptualist.”
I asked Sorensen if he himself has continued to work on music, to which he replied that he has not, but that he finds it to be the “same as editing” in that it requires a certain understanding of patterns and rhythms. Sorensen now spends his time working on films and teaching film at Rhode Island College, Clark University, and the New York Film Academy.
When asked about his advice for aspiring filmmakers, Sorensen laughed, saying “I really don’t know if I’m in a position to be giving advice to filmmakers,” but then proceeded to explain, “If you want to direct, direct. Everyone carries a miniature HD camera in their pocket these days. Tangerine, a film shot entirely on an IPhone, was just screened at the Sundance Film Festival. We’re living through the democratization of media. There’s no need to lie, cheat, and steal your way onto big movie sets. Just make films.”
My Father’s Vietnam will have its premiere at the Rhode Island International Film Festival on August 6th 2015. For more information on scheduling visit www.riiff2015.sched.org and for more information on Sorensen visit his website at www.soren-sorensen.com.