On March 19, 20, and 27 at BFI Southbank in London, England the 89-minute documentary film Jimmy in Saigon (jimmyinsaigon.com) will have its World Premiere. Jimmy in Saigon explores the tragic death, radical life, and forbidden romance of a 24-year-old Vietnam veteran who died in Saigon in 1972.
Featuring modern day scenes shot in the United States, Vietnam and France, as well as archival footage, the film is directed by Peter McDowell, Jimmy’s youngest brother, with Dan Savage as the executive producer.
The original musical score was written by the filmmaker’s brother, John McDowell (composer of Oscar-winning Born Into Brothels) and by Italian-German singer and composer Sabina Sciubba (lead singer of the GRAMMY®-nominated electropop powerhouse Brazilian Girls; actor in the television series Baskets).
Screenings will be held on March 19 at 1:45pm and March 20 at 1:00pm at BFI Southbank Belvedere Rd, London SE1 8XT, United Kingdom; ticketing information is at bfi.org.uk/flare
Due to the popularity of the film at BFI Flare, an additional screening was added as part of their “Best of Fest” program on March 27 at 3:10pm.
Jimmy’s rejection of his family’s values and his eventual death created deep trauma within the lives of his surviving family and complicated how he was remembered.
2022 is both the year of completion for the film and the 50th anniversary of Jimmy’s death in Saigon. As we both celebrate finishing the film and commemorate the anniversary of Jimmy’s last year in Saigon, his provocative choices cause us to reflect: how has the United States changed, or remained stagnant in terms of foreign policy, domestic politics, and national conversations surrounding sexual identity? As a kick off points to these discussions, Jimmy in Saigon provides a window to fruitful and lively dialogues.
Through making the film, it has come to light that Jimmy had a relationship with a Vietnamese man in the last few years before his death – a relationship he kept secret from his friends and family in the U.S. A veteran from a middle class, catholic, background, returns to the country where he was involved in a war in order to be with a Vietnamese man from a poor family; the story of Jimmy’s life asks difficult questions still relevant today.
For more about Jimmy in Saigon, please visit the film’s website: jimmyinsaigon.com
Surrounded by opera as a child and trained as a musician and actor, Director and Producer Peter McDowell has always been drawn to melding story, image and sound in his own stage and film productions. Born and raised in Champaign, Illinois, he produced opera professionally in Chicago from 1999-2006; prior to that, he made two Super 8 short films that were shown at San Francisco’s Frameline Film Festival. One of those shorts, I Dream of Dorothy, went on to festivals worldwide.
In addition to filmmaking, Peter works as a fundraiser, publicist, and a teacher of fundraising, which has helped him bridge the creative aspects of filmmaking with the more managerial aspects essential for production. Peter recently served as Director of Development for American Friends of the Louvre, and is the recipient of a highly competitive three year DeVos Institute for Arts Management International Fellowship at the University of Maryland. In 2018, Peter was also the recipient of a Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Individual Artists Program grant for Jimmy in Saigon, and in 2020 he won a California Humanities Council grant, also for this film. He currently resides in Los Angeles and runs his own firm, Peter McDowell Arts Consulting, currently teaching fundraising workshops for filmmakers and other artists.