By Tami Jackson
Ride the Thunder film project has been several years in the making: Author Rich Botkin and Director Fred Koster joined forces to bring the true story of the Vietnam War to the screen.
Friday night, March 27, after hundreds of hours of filming, editing, and interviewing, the long-awaited movie premiered at the Westminster Regency 10 in Westminster, CA.
About 500 invited guests descended on the theater, including Veterans — both American and South Vietnamese — friends, family, cast and crew. The crowd was all smiles and great expectations, knowing this movie might just be the vehicle to spread the truth about Vietnam.
America has largely been ignorant for 40 years plus concerning the Vietnam war: why we were involved, who were the NVA, the ARVN, and others? Who was funding and supporting the North Vietnamese Army? Did the South Vietnamese really want our help?
Were we winning and defeating communism in that small country in Southeast Asia? If so, why DID we pull out when we did?
And for 40 years Main Stream Media, academia, certain famous personalities and others have spread outright lies about the intent and the successes in Vietnam.
The truth of Vietnam, a country oppressed and occupied for hundreds of years, has been mostly hidden and unknown…until now.
The Ride the Thunder “family” had worked and hoped and prayed for the intent of this movie to be apparent to the premiere attendees: to change the mis-remembrance of the Vietnam War, and to give those tremendous men, Americans and South Vietnamese, who fought side-by-side in the war, their proper place in history.
And so they came, excited and expectant.
Fred Koster and Rich Botkin said a very few brief words before the movie began (2 screens were showing the film, both packed out). Director Koster said that this would be a very different movie, a movie that would answer so many of the skeptical questions. That would fill in the missing pieces for both the Vietnamese and the Americans.
Ride the Thunder is a docudrama: approximately 60% re-enactment and 40% interviews.
Interspersed throughout the film original footage of TV interviews of Ronald Reagan, Jane Fonda, and John Kerry were used to great effect, allowing the viewers to come to their own conclusions.
The story artfully weaves the recollections of Lt.Col. Le Ba Binh, writing from the confines of the Communist “Reeducation” camp, with both events just prior to the Easter Offensive and with Col. John Ripley’s efforts to inform Americans back home about what was really going on in Vietnam.
Like an historic duet, the lives of the South Vietnamese Marines and the American Marines ebb and flow, creating a powerful and moving story.
All too soon, the hour and 46 minutes came to an end, invitees wiped their eyes, and applause broke out.
The film that sought to communicate the truth had touched the audience.
In the reception following, held at the Hotel Huntington Beach, the movie goers celebrated a movie unlike any other.
The gathering was loud and joyful. Hugs and congratulations mingled with hope that this was just the beginning.
Saturday day word reached the team: the movie was selling out quickly and another screen was added to accommodate the surge of ticket sales. Huge groups of tickets were being bought and the Westminster Theater proclaimed Ride the Thunder their most successful premiere to date.
The opening weekend’s success, followed by an expected high per screen viewings in the coming 5 days, could spring-board the movie to nation-wide distribution.
Take notice America: the truth about our nation’s involvement in the Vietnam War, artfully told in the film, Ride the Thunder, is about to eradicate the lies and distortions disseminated for too long.