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Riding the Tiger

John Haptas, Kris Samuelson
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This documentary essay revisits the Vietnam War, working through a chronology of the struggle to consider how we got in, the hubris which drove us to stay in, and the chaos we left behind. Woven into archival and contemporary footage are the comments and stories of Vietnamese survivors, American veterans, a journalist who covered the war, and anti-war protestors.

Original footage for "Riding the Tiger" was shot at a vast "boneyard" in the Arizona desert. This Air Force holding lot is covered with row after row of military aircraft, neatly sorted by type and vintage. Additionally, at this site, B-52 bombers are demolished as part of an arms reduction agreement. We shot the dismemberment of the B-52s as they were cut up with a 13,000 lb. guillotine hoisted by a massive crane. B-52 bombers are a key visual motif in this film.


John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson's first collaborative film project, Wrong Place, Wrong Time (1987), premiered at San Francisco's Film Arts Festival and was subsequently screened at the San Francisco International (Golden Gate Award) and Chicago (Silver Plaque) Film Festivals, Montreal's Festival International du Film sur l'Art (Prix du Meilleur Essai), and the Ann Arbor, Denver International, and Rotterdam Stichting Film Festivals. It also screened at MOMA in New York. In November 1991 they completed Empire of the Moon, which has had awards and/or screenings at the Film Arts Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival (Special Jury Prize), and the Ann Arbor, Black Maria (Director's Citation), Charlotte (Best Experimental Documentary), Athens (Best of Category), Chicago International ((Certificate of Merit), San Jose Cinequest, National Educational (Bronze Apple) and American (Red Ribbon) Film Festivals, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and San Francisco Cinematheque, and on public television.

Samuelson is Chair of the Department of Communication at Stanford University, where she has taught in the Documentary Film and Video Program for seventeen years. Prior to her teaching career, she worked in the film industry in various capacities , principally as an independent producer and director. Her films have won numerous awards, including an Academy Award nomination (Arthur and Lillie (Co-director)), and have covered a wide range of subjects, such as parenting (2 a.m. Feeding), Alaskan artist Fred Machetanz (An Artist's Journey), and women in jail (Time Has No Sympathy). John has worked as a location sound mixer on all types of productions, from commercials to features (Dune, Taipan). He now works exclusively on documentaries (e.g. Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt, Yosemite: The Fate of Heaven, Sing Faster, Cadillac Desert).

Contact information:

Kris Samuelson, Co-Producer, Co-Director
1028 Paradise Way
Palo Alto, CA 94306
phone: 650-723-0943
fax: 650-725-2472

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