Hidden Warriors: Women on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a documentary film directed by Karen Turner, professor of history at the College, was recently screened at the ninth annual Women’s International Film Festival. The event, titled Through Women’s Eyes—and held in February, in Sarasota, Fla.—is a
project of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The film, which was produced by Turner and Phan Thanh Hao, a Vietnamese journalist, represents the first joint effort by an American and Vietnamese team.
“The film tells the story of the thousands of young women who volunteered to support North Vietnam’s regular army after 1965 when the U.S. intensified its air war,” explains Turner. “These women left their homes during their teens and early twenties, forgoing marriage and education, to defend the most critical sites along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.”
The 46-minute film shows archival footage from Hanoi, never before shown in the United States. It documents the daily lives and struggles of these women, who took on the work of their male comrades—displaying visually that women can stand up as well as men under the most violent conditions.
The idea for the film came from a book Turner co-wrote with Hao, titled Even the Women Must Fight: Memories of War from North Vietnam (Wiley, New York, 1998). After the book was published, several documentary filmmakers called to get permission to use the book as a basis for a film; Turner and Hao decided, however, that they did not want to lose control of the story or the interviews with the group of veterans and opted instead to produce the film themselves.
Turner, a member of the Holy Cross faculty since 1987 and a trained scholar of classical Chinese law, has written about law in China in a comparative context; she is now working with a team at Stanford University to compare the Chinese and Roman empires. Instrumental in the development of the Asian Studies program at the College, Turner is the recipient of several academic awards and honors, including her selection as the Rev. John E. Brooks, S.J., Professor of Humanities, from 2002-05.
Turner says her students have been a major force in the production. One of them did a voiceover for the film—and her classes have watched and commented on it as it has progressed.
“The insights of my students, who are far savvier about film than I am, have been very useful. I have always kept them in mind as my imaginary audience and that has helped with the focus of the work.”
For more information on the film, visit www.ThroughWomensEyes.com.