Hugh Thompson was more than a whistleblower. The 24-year-old major was a hero to most, a traitor to some, and a veritable angel to those whose lives he saved when, on March 16, 1968, he landed his Army observation helicopter to intervene at the site where US soldiers were murdering hundreds of Vietnamese civilians. Fifty years later, a group of artists with diverse connections to the Vietnam War collaborate on a chamber opera exploring the agitated soul of the 67-year-old Thompson during his final hours, as he reckons with his life and the disgraceful treatment he received at the hands of his army and government in the aftermath of the My Lai Massacre. Vivid archival images frame the rehearsals of the Kronos Quartet, composer Jonathan Berger, librettist Harriet Scott Chessman, renowned tenor Eckert and virtuoso Vietnamese instrumentalist Van-Anh Vo as they proceed toward a premiere through deeply stirring yet musically and emotionally challenging terrain.
The Whistleblower of My Lai premiered in Vietnam for the 50th anniversary commemoration of the massacre where it was seen by one of Vietnam’s foremost film directors Đặng Nhật Minh:
“I have watched a lot of films about the Vietnam War. For the first time I was exposed to a documentary combined with the power of opera, of music…This is a very daring and innovative film. Light shines even in the darkest hour. We do not despair because there is still the light of human conscience. Specifically in this film, Thompson is that light of humanity.”