Coconut monk

Sad song of yellow skin. The Coconut Monk raises a finger

I made many documentaries while working at the National film board of Canada, my time there spanning 25 years from 1965 till the end of the 80s . My notable films began in the early 70s with, Sad song of Yellow skin. This was a personal journey to the streets of Saigon at the height of the war.

I link up with some young American correspondents who are working underground, exposing nasty things about the war, and with them, explore strange places in Saigon. I go to an island of peace, a haven in the Mekong Delta run by a holy man called the Coconut Monk. He believes that by manipulating the symbols of things, he will be able to bring the terrible war to an end.

Sad Song is an early example of the personal documentary where the filmmaker, myself as the narrator, becomes a character to some extent in the story. This had never been done before. I did it not to be a stylistic ground breaker, or to create a new genre, but simply because, I could see no other way to report what I was seeing and feeling. This personal style was most criticised, and later very much copied.

National Film Board –