Vietnam's Toxic Legacy

altMe and Loi in The Peace Village, Saigon.

Up until August 2016, I knew very little about the Vietnam war. I'm embarrassed to say pretty much everything I'd learnt about this conflict came from watching American movies such as Platoon, Coming Home, and Full metal jacket. Full metal jacket always intrigued me because one of my mates told me the sniper scene was shot in Beckton in East London where I used to live. The idea of a Hollywood blockbuster movie being filmed near me totally blew my mind!

The problem with big box office movies is however hard hitting and horrific, the Showbiz circus that follows them lowers their impact and can make even something as brutal as war seem glamorous. I don't know why, maybe it was my age maybe it was pure ignorance, but when I watched these films as a teenager I never thought about what happened to the Vietnamese people.

altVicki Cooper Director

Last year I witnessed the full reality in person of the legacy of a war that ended almost fifty years ago. This happened after spending three weeks in Hanoi, Saigon, and Danang, cities that played a major part in the conflict, whilst making a film for C4's documentary series Unreported World. I was there with producer director Vicki Cooper to investigate the possibility that Agent Orange a highly toxic chemical used by the US army during the war against Vietnam, was still having a hugely detrimental impact on a fourth generation of Vietnamese children.

altTram has a severe cleft pallet.I was told by staff that she was probably a victim of Agent Orange

What I saw was gut wrenching and very sad. Although I did find hope through one of the contributors we met called Loi. He was living in a special hospital ward for Agent Orange victims in Saigon called The Peace Village. Loi is training to be a Paralympic swimmer he wants to compete at the Tokyo Games in 2020! My experience in Vietnam was very powerful and nearly a year later I still feel affected by what I saw.

Some of you may find the images in this blog disturbing. They tell a story that has been forgotten by the world.

The full 24 minutes version of our film can be watched on C4's catch up service all4/unreported world then search Vietnam's toxic legacy

altFoetuses collected by Dr Phoung as evidence of the effect of Agent Orange on babies in the womb.

This is a link to the shortened version