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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 18 January 2022

Vietnam documentary maker stands by film about 'left behind' soldier

After days of online controversy, Michael Jorgensen says his documentary Unclaimed has found a Vietnam vet who was left behind after the war.

Image: Unclaimed

THE MAKER OF a documentary about a US army veteran lost in Vietnam for more than four decades is standing by his film despite claims the protagonist is a fraud.

Michael Jorgensen told Canada AM that initially he was “dubious” about the story but was convinced by the family’s reaction to the man they believe is John Hartley Robertson.

The Army Sergeant was classified as MIA and then Killed in Action following a 1968 incident during the conflict.

Unclaimed follows Vietnam vet Tom Faunce as he tries to reunite the 76-year-old man he found in a rural village with his American family. He found Robertson in a rural village, unable to speak English or remember his children’s names.

“What convinced me was Tom’s journey,” said Jorgensen, an Emmy-award winning film maker. “He had been searching for the truth for a couple of years.”

Since details of the documentary were posted online last week – including on this site – there has been much debate about its veracity.

Gail Metcalfe, who claims to be Robertson’s niece, says that her mother believes she has found her brother.

“We were concerned that someone may be trying to scam us, we’ve heard reports of that throughout the years,” she told Canada AM, adding that she was the most sceptical of her family members.

She said her first thought on meeting him was that he looked like her grandfather. She also denies government claims that it collected DNA from her family.

She recalled how he “gave his tooth up without a thought” to prove he is who is says he is. Robertson also knew details about his sister’s husband, including his name and occupation.

The Department of Defense has previously taken fingerprints from a man claiming to be the lost veteran. It dismissed the claim, stating the DNA or prints did not match what they had on file.

The GI Film Festival in Washington DC still plans to screen the documentary but has included a disclaimer on its website and will issue a statement prior to the showing.

“The GI Film Festival is aware of the controversy surrounding the film Unclaimed and the fact that some POW groups and activists strongly believe a man featured in the film claiming to be a POW is a fraud.  The government, for its part, has conducted an investigation into the matter and has come to the same conclusion,” it reads, linking to a document from the Department of Defense.

However, it has made its decision because “it is the festival’s job to screen interesting stories that stimulate public debate and foster conversation”.

“Whether fact or fiction, Unclaimed is a fascinating story about a Vietnam veteran, Tom Faunce, who dedicates himself to bringing home someone he believes to be an American GI left behind.

“Even if he is chasing a myth, we feel his story is compelling and worth telling, as long as it is accompanied by a disclosure to viewers about the controversy surrounding it.”

Robertson has returned to Vietnam after his trip to the US. He has a wife and children in the rural village.

READ: This US soldier ‘found alive’ in Vietnam 44 years after being left behind

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