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Love Letters to Vietnam

A group of people return to Vietnam after decades away to confront the past and find reconciliation and healing.

  • Sebastian Nieves
  • Derek Dienner
  • Steve Buckwalter
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Travel, History, Documentary
  • Runtime:
    35 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 24, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    35,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States, Viet Nam
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, 16mm
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Sebastian Nieves

A few things have been present in Sebastian’s filmmaking from the very beginning: his Colombian roots, his loyalty to family, and the curiosity that drives him to find meaning in every image. He believes that living a rich and deliberate life leads to good work, and that a camera can be an instrument of God’s love.
Sebastian considers himself a director’s DP - he asks the important questions to make sure every shot serves the overall vision.
This philosophy has given him the opportunity to work with cinematographers like Bradford Young, to shoot commercial films for brands such as Footlocker, PUMA, AMEX, and Shangri-La Hotels, and to film the Bleacher Report web series Untold Stories.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I was drawn to this story by Lei WIlliams, a refugee from Vietnam. I naturally connected with her as we share similar migrant backgrounds. She became the doorway that opened up the veterans to me. From there, little by little I got a glimpse into each veteran, and little did I know that a journey of healing was ahead of me.
The most surprising element of this journey was the connection we formed. As the interviews rolled on and the broll was shot, I couldn't help but start witnessing those young men in their older bodies. These guys are a bunch of rascals, truthful in spirit and young at heart. I could recall moments where we would be engaged in conversation and I would witness a transformation of their younger self, for matter of speaking. I am humbled by their existence and thankful for our friendship.
This film is meaningful to me  for many reasons, however one of the ones that sticks out is the meaning of letting go, and making peace with your past. This group of veterans found a way to make it to Vietnam, a place where some of them witness the worst possible things. And now they found a way to grow in fortitude, and found themselves back in that same place. I learned a lot from them.
I want people to watch this film and walk away understanding what a sacrifice looks like, and not just the small ones that we are all used to. When people watch this, they will see the sacrifice of a mother to save their kids life. Or the sacrifice of a young soldier coming to grasp with trauma, and dealing with it. But ultimately the path to make peace with your past. And lastly, enjoy the journey of this trip and we witness a beautiful developing country.