The People vs. Agent Orange

The People vs. Agent Orange

June 28, 2021

by

Alan Adelson , Kate Taverna, and Veronique Bernard

Two women, one American and one Vietnamese, fight to hold the chemical industry accountable for a devastating legacy.

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About the Documentary

Nearly 60 years following the use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War—the deadliest use of chemical warfare in history—the devastating aftereffects of the toxin remain lethal, demanding attention both in Vietnam and at home in America. The People vs. Agent Orange closely follows two activists as they take on the chemical industry, and demand accountability for the pernicious legacy caused by the use of this poisonous herbicide.

French-Vietnamese activist Tran To Nga and American activist Carol Van Strum are joined in mutual pain and purpose in their quest for justice. Tran spent seven years building a legal case against the American chemical industry for poisoning her and her family in Vietnam—causing severe health issues and deformity—after 12 million gallons of the toxic herbicide were used there by the American military in the ’60s and ’70s. Stateside in Oregon, Carol Van Strum fights intimidation and threats by timber interests as she brings to light damning corporate documentation of the deadly impacts of the chemical 24D, even as it was widely used in her community, with no public consultation or warnings.

The People vs. Agent Orange unites these two activists nearly halfway around the world from each other, both equally passionate and righteous in their causes, in a staggering examination of corruption for which there has been no accountability.

The Filmmakers

Alan Adelson

Alan Adelson (Director, Producer, Writer) has overlapping careers in documentary film and investigative journalism. Adelson produced and co-directed Lodz Ghetto (1988) with Kate Taverna. The documentary was shortlisted for the Academy Award Best Documentary Oscar. The filmmaker couple also produced and directed Two Villages in Kosovo (2006) for Arte, and the widely acclaimed In Bed with Ulysses (2012). Adelson made worldwide headlines with his investigative articles in Esquire and The Wall Street Journal revealing the disappearance of enriched plutonium from an American nuclear reprocessing plant.

Kate Taverna

Kate Taverna (Director, Producer, Editor) has co-directed and edited four documentaries with Adelson. Taverna has edited more than 50 independent feature documentaries, shorts and broadcast films over a career spanning more than 35 years for PBS, Arte, BBC, HBO, A&E, IFC and global broadcasters. Asylum (2004) and Killing in the Name (2011) were both Academy Award nominees in the Best Short Documentary category. Pray the Devil Back to Hell won Best Documentary at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and led to a Nobel Prize being awarded to its central protagonist, Leymah Gbowee.

Veronique Bernard

Véronique Bernard (Producer, Writer) is an award-winning independent non-fiction film and television producer, director, and senior executive with more than 30 credits whose experience includes WNET Culture & Arts Documentaries, Sundance Channel Original Programming, New York Times Television, National Geographic Television, ABC News Productions, and PBS, with documentaries such as E2: The Economies of Being Environmentally Conscious (2009,) Art In The Twenty-First Century (2016) and Enter The Faun (2017.)

Awards

  • 2021 Erik Barnouw Award

  • Eugene Environmental Film Festival

    Jury Award

Learn more about the documentary

Join the Discussion

How much did you know going into this film about the legacy of Agent Orange and related cover-ups? Do you think there will ever be proper resolution to this devastating legacy?

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