The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan premiered at the Discovery Channel AFI Silver Docs Film Festival. The film was presented by director Henry Corra and the family of McKinley Noland who also star in the film. Executive Producer Danny Glover was unable to attend but McKinley’s family was at the screening. They had an informal Q&A at the back of the theater after the screening. The theater was packed and I was late because of the USA vs. Ghana World Cup Match so I was forced to sit up front and I believe it became standing room only shortly after I came in. The film is a documentary, but also a mystery. The film keeps asking, “What happened to MiKinley Nolan?” It’s a deeply personal film that features interviews with former Khmer Rouge and Viet Cong members.
Retired Army Lt. Dan Smith tries to unravel the mystery after visiting Vietnam in 2005. He encountered an American on one of the streets. He was a large nervous black man who said very little and then walked off and rounded a corner to never have been seen again. The villagers confirmed the man’s name was McKinley. He returned to the states and found a picture of the man. Smith then started to do some research and the mystery began. He discovered that the government knew where McKinley was and questioned if he was part of the amnesty program. Then they decided he was a traitor and never recovered him. Smith met with McKinley’s family who has received no contact from the government since the late 60s. He said he had seen a man matching his description and spoke with him for a few moments while he was revisiting Vietnam.
He convinces McKinley’s brother to join him on a trip back to look for McKinley. They travel to Vietnam and meet with people who say they knew McKinley during and after the war. Many of the reports are conflicting or rehearsed as if they were told to say them. Here is my best guess as to what actually happened from watching the film:
-1967 McKinley defected with his Vietnamese Wife to the side of the Viet Cong.
-1973 McKinley is reported living among the Viet Cong by the CIA.
-1974 Henry Kissinger Signs a memo making McKinley eligible for the amnesty program.
-1977 McKinley and wife were last seen by the Khmer Rouge before they beat him to death with shovels.
The crew at Silver Docs reported that they were stopped by the United States Government at every turn while in Vietnam and only with the help of Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee were they able to get any documents from the government or access to places in Vietnam. The mystery continues to the very end and is still ongoing even now. I only hope one day they film can be updated with the truth.
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-Phone: 301.495.6720 & 301.495.6700 (Movie listing recording)
-Parking: Lee Building behind theater $3 a night
-Closet Metro: Two blocks Silver Spring (Red Line)
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-Food: Hot dogs, pop corn, etc
-Drinks: Soda, beer, wine
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Other Silver Docs Reviews
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The Inventions of Dr. Nakamats
Sons of Perdition