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Unclaimed : The Documentary

Special Forces Green Beret Master Sgt. John Hartley Robertson had forgotten how to speak English over the 44 years since he was left behind in the Vietnam War. But he never forgot that he was a father, husband and an American soldier, born in Alabama, shot down over Laos in a 1968 classified mission.

Had Hollywood told the story of the discovery of a long-forgotten soldier, found miraculously still alive in Vietnam after surviving a horrific helicopter attack and crash, it would have involved a dramatic and dangerous jungle rescue followed by a homecoming parade.

Instead, in Emmy-winning Edmonton filmmaker Michael Jorgensen's documentary Unclaimed, we meet a slightly stooped, wiry 76-year-old man living in a remote village in south-central Vietnam who trembles with frustration or pounds his forehead when he is unable to remember his birthday or his American children's names. He is only able to speak Vietnamese.

Unclaimed has its world premiere at Toronto's 20th Hot Docs festival today April 30.

Robertson says he was confined to a bamboo cage in the jungle by North Vietnamese captors and, accused of being a CIA spy, was tortured for a year. Confused and badly injured, he was released and married the Vietnamese nurse who helped care for him. He assumed the name of her dead husband. They had children.

Jorgensen believes audiences in America, where "they don't hold anything higher than service to the country, will lose their minds when Unclaimed screens at the G.I. Film Festival in Washington, D.C., in May. They'll come unglued.

But Jorgensen wanted this Canadian production to screen in his home country first.

The filmmaker came up against enough roadblocks from the military in the making of Unclaimed especially when it came to contacting Robertson's family to be convinced that, as one high-placed government source told him, It's not that the Vietnamese won't let him (Robertson) go; it's that our government doesn't want him.

Editors Note: Big Wall Bling will endeavour to include this documentary in it's archives as soon as it becomes publically available. In the meantime you can watch a preview...

Unclaimed Documentary - Preview

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