The Cu Chi Tunnels

During the war in Vietnam, thousands of people in the Vietnamese province of Cu Chi lived in an elaborate system of underground tunnels. Originally built in the time of the French, the tunnels were enlarged during the American presence. When the Americans began bombing the villages of Cu Chi, the survivors went underground where they remained for the duration of the war.

The secret tunnels, which joined village to village and often passes beneath American bases, were not only fortifications for Viet Cong guerillas, but were also the center of community life. Hidden beneath the destroyed villages were schools and public spaces were hospitals where children were born and surgery was performed on casualties of war: underground were schools and public spaces where couples were married and private places where lovers met. There were even theaters where performers entertained with song and dance and traditional stories.

The Cu Chi Tunnels, a Mickey Grant film, is the story of life underground told by the people who lived the experience. It is a story told by a surgeon, an artist, and actress, an engineer, and the few survivors of the guerilla band who left the tunnels each night to fight against an enemy of vastly superior strength.

Attached to the guerilla bands were Viet Cong documentary cameramen and camerawomen whose footage of the war from the Vietnamese point of view and of love, life and death in the tunnels has survived and is used in the film. This extremely rare footage povides a fascinating kind of echo; we see and hear an actress perform in the wartime tunnels and then hear her describe the experience nearly thirty years later.

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  1. Originally, I planned to include American “tunnel rats”, but then realized, even though they were brave has hell, their stories were basically of heroics, great heroics, but heroics that never needed to happen. One day, early on in my shooting, I realized I was the only person telling the story of the rebels from their point of view. I fully had creative control of this film and the executive producer had asked me if I could do a film of him running for peace from Hanoi to DaNang, all for under half a million, then he would finance my film. So many supposedly liberal lawyers kicked me out of the offices as they though my idea was against America. In no way was it against America. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, all of this will happen again as we’ve seen it happen so many, many times since I finished this film in 1990. When are we going to learn anything? I tried to make a film called “FRIENDS OF UNCLE HO” during the period of time I lived in Holland. The Dutch seem supportive of the documentary, but in the end, I found they are just as jaded as our society, if not more jaded. My life in Holland was horrific. Dutch act so socially advanced, but in the end, they are the folks who quickly surrendered to the Germans. Period. I do love the documentary director Jarvis Ivens, but they actually took his citizenship away after he made an incredible film about Indonesian colonialization and Indonesia’s revolution against them.
    Just for your information, for the most part, the Dutch hate Americans, especially loud Texans. My former sister-in-law admitted that she just hated me because I was an American. I often rode the train between my home in Utrecht and Amsterdam, where I worked for a Dutch film company. Often, it was an international train passing thru Utrecht and the smiley American tourist would be talking about stupid stuff such as being in Paris the night before and Germany the day before. All my Dutch educated friends (some of them being medical doctors) would be quietly laughing at them with the 1 or 2 language Americans not understanding a word. I very quickly learned they were laughing at me as well. What an idiot I was to have moved there and married a self-hating Dutch lady who constantly tolerating people slamming me.
    So, here I am… living in total poverty about 30 miles from where I was born 71 years ago. No one in the vicinity of my “home”, have any respect for my films. This film was a dream for me but living in incredible poverty, was not the dream. I took this path, probably one of the most difficult paths I could have chosen. I now live in extreme depression along side the poverty.

  2. Very interesting and well-paced. Good mixture of stand-up interviews and footage, some of it obviously original as described.
    It would have been interesting to interview some American soldiers about their experiences fighting against these tunneling guerrillas.