Return with Honor

Institute History

  • 1999 Sundance Film Festival


It’s probably not possible for any film that reexamines the historical experiences of the Vietnam War to be free from debate, and this exceptionally moving and emotional account of the American POW experience is no execption. Abstaining from basic questions regarding the war’s legitimacy, filmmakers Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders present the story of the American flyers who were captured and imprisoned in the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison camp straight-forwardly and with little editorial comment.
Without question, these flyers’ fascinating and detailed tales of survival (both individually and collectively) are set amidst the most adverse circumstances. By allowing so many different military officers to relate their memories of their torturous years in Vietnamese hands, Return with Honor brings a human face to the POW reality that is both riveting and powerful.
Utilizing remarkable images and an extensive amount of previously unseen Vietnamese footage documenting imprisonment, the filmmakers (whose previous work, Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, won an Academy Award in 1995) build a stirring testimony to the resilience and endurance of the human spirit. The ingenuity and personal strength of the soldiers’ resistance to their captors are bluntly and absorbingly related and add a new dimension to the reality of war and its suffering. But the question of whether the return of the POWs can now be viewed in a more patriotic context than was possible two decades ago still depends on one’s understanding and political opinion of a war on which we may never all agree.

Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders, Directors
Director Freida Lee Mock set out to be a lawyer, but an epiphany about being a documentary filmmaker struck her after she was in a short film. Along with Terry Sanders, she received an Academy Award for Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision. Mock is completing films on Frank Zappa, Bella Lewitzky, and Dorothy West. Sanders’ first short, A Time Out of War, won an Academy Award. He has produced, written, and directed more than fifty films, including War Hunt, the debut of Robert Redford.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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