During its 18 hours, Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” finds time to acknowledge Minnesota with commentary from a Worthington-born author and at least three Bob Dylan songs, but that wasn’t enough for Twin Cities Public Television.
With money from the state Legacy Fund, TPT has produced two one-hour films that will air after the epic documentary concludes.
“Minnesota Remembers Vietnam: The Telling Project,” debuting at 8 p.m. Sept. 29, takes you behind the scenes of a special performance taped at the station’s St. Paul studios in May.
Five Minnesotans, including Army nurse Mary Beth Crowley and former Army Chief Warrant Officer Ray Wilson, shared their personal stories in a theater piece produced by the Telling Project, a nonprofit organization that harnesses the power of theater to connect veterans and their families to their communities. The film focuses on preparations for the raw monologues; the theater piece itself will stream on TPT.org at the end of September.
“We saw this as a great opportunity to show how arts is providing a platform for something that’s normally difficult to talk about,” said producer Amy Melin. “In this case, it’s your neighbor, the people you may encounter all the time, but may not know their whole story.”
“America’s Secret War,” premiering at 8 p.m. Oct. 3, looks at North Vietnam’s invasion of Laos and how it triggered a mass exodus of that country’s citizens to America. Having a Minnesota-based broadcaster shepherd the film made sense since the Twin Cities is home to more Hmong-Americans than any other urban area in the United States.
Director Lisa Blackstone chose to interview a dozen local Hmong people in the TPT studios rather than in their homes. “I wanted to strip them away from modern-day life and really allow viewers to focus on them,” she said. Blackstone also relied heavily on archival photos from Concordia University’s Center for Hmong Studies.
TPT also has launched an online effort called “The Story Wall,” inviting Minnesotans to share personal tales of the war. You can post your recollections at MNvietnam.org. Selected stories are being published there and at TPT’s website.
As for Worthington-bred author Tim O’Brien, he and Lynn Novick, co-director of “The Vietnam War,” will speak at Macalester College at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 ($10-$20, MNvietnam.org/events). Come early, starting at 5:30, to add your story to the Story Wall.