Marc Waszkiewicz took more than 4,000 photographs when he was in Vietnam with a camera he won in a poker game during his first few weeks overseas. He snapped photos of the landscape, gear, tanks and his friends and then he packed them away in shoeboxes and didn’t look at them for decades.
He forgot about his three tours. About how he lay on the floor of the jungle with bullet holes in his body, in between his friends and the enemy, one waiting for the other to blink and come retrieve him. He forgot about the pictures. And he forgot about the film. He forgot about everything as he walked with his wife, on vacation, and stumbled upon the traveling Vietnam Veteran Memorial wall.
"I saw it. And then I saw people laying mementos. I saw how they decorated. I saw all the names," he said.
He saw a glass box with a teddy bear. And a note.
"You could never sleep without this bear, Johnny. I hope now you can rest in peace," it was signed "Mom."
"I'd been in Vietnam."
He remembered the pictures and he remembered the film.
The 80s came and with it, permission to make movies about Vietnam. He met Lea Jones—a music producer-- and over the course of more than 20 years, splits, reunions and re-tooling the pair created a film: “Vietnam: An InnerView.”
The film has made the rounds of local film festival and on Sunday, March 18, it will land in Cottage Grove at the Brewstation for another showing.
“The film is a lot like the book,” Jones said, referring to Waszkiewicz’s photo book currently on stands at the Book Mine in Cottage Grove, “it’s very slice of life-y.”
When Waszkiewicz and Jones met, all Waszkiewicz had were photos and an idea. Through a bit of collaboration, the pair opted to create a soundtrack to accompany the photos.
“I wasn’t a protestor but was against the war and wasn’t enamored with vets which wasn’t unusual at that time,” Jones said. “I didn’t really want to have anything to do with the project but dove in mainly because I was resisting it so hard. We worked for about a year making those songs. Put the songs on a cassette and it didn’t go anywhere even though it was well-received by some people for what it was.”
The duo lost touch after Jones moved to the east coast and didn’t connect again until 2007 when Jones sought Waszkiewicz’s permission to re-release the cassette for the anniversary of the Vietnam Memorial Wall. Secretary of the Vietnam Veterans of America, Keith King heard the cassette at the event and encouraged the pair to keep working.
“In 2010, Marc got in touch with me again and said two of his best friends from the photos had killed themselves in the last few years,” Jones said. Waszkiewicz wanted to alter the project and dedicate it to veterans in crisis and to bring awareness to veteran suicide.
“Vietnam: An InnerView” weaves Waszkiewicz’s photos in with pieces of the soundtrack created 30 years ago and interviews from Waskiewicz’s fellow veterans about their service and the complications they faced coming home.
“We’re grabbing my big TV from my living room with a sound system and having a showing,” Jones said. The first five veterans (not in the same group) to attend the viewing will receive a free copy of the film, photo book and soundtrack.
“This is Marc’s story but Marc’s story is the horse carrying the six other stories that come from these other veterans,” Jones said.
“Vietnam: An InnerView” is showing on March 18 at the Brewstation. Doors open at 3 p.m., the film starts at 4 p.m.