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The People vs. Agent Orange (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 27, 2023


Featuring Bruce Anderson, André Bouny, William Bourdon, Heather Bowser, Dr. James Clary, Thomas Daschle, Darrell Ivy, Amélie Lefebvre, Kieu Viet Hong, Kieu Viet Lien, Kieu Xuan Long, Jonathan Moore, Laura Petrou, Bertrand Repolt, Peter Sills, Renee Stringham, Susan Swift, Thieu Kieu Lam Ngoc, Tran Thi Que Nga, Tran To Nga, Carol Van Strum, Judge Jack Weinstein, Alex Wong, Vivian Wong, David Zierler and the voice of Paul McIsaac.

Written by Alan Adelson, Veronique Bernard and Kate Taverna.

Directed by Kate Taverna and Alan Adelson.

Distributed by Films for Humanity. 87 minutes. Not Rated.

When most people think of Agent Orange – if they know what it is at all – they think of it as a toxic chemical herbicide which was used as a weapon in the Vietnam War. However, eventually the substance was found to be in violation of the Geneva convention, and the US military stopped using it.

I had thought that was where the story ended with Agent Orange. The documentary The People vs. Agent Orange shows that the history of the substance was much more long-ranging, and even more disturbing than I originally thought.

For example, did you know that long after the chemical was banned from military usage, it is still being used to this day – under its technical name 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (or 2,4-D) – for deforestation in Washington state, Oregon, and in other countries around the world? And that people who live in the areas where it has been used have been much more susceptible to cancer and other illnesses.

Documentary co-directors Kate Taverna and Alan Adelson have been trying open eyes to this problem for a few years now. Last year they released a short TV doc called “Agent Orange: La dernière bataille” (“Agent Orange: The Last Battle”). The People vs. Agent Orange is an extension of that film, taking a deeper dive into a subject which has been under the radar for much too long.

Agent Orange was created as an extremely powerful weed killer by Dow Chemical decades ago. However, the world doesn’t exist in a vacuum. The herbicide was extremely successful at destroying foliage. This is why the US military originally took it on, to destroy the dense forests and marshlands where enemy troops were hiding out.

However, it quickly became apparent there was a side effect. The chemical was leaching into the water, the rivers, the soil and the crops of the areas it was used, eventually being ingested by humans and causing massive amounts of illness and death.

The People vs. Agent Orange takes a comprehensive look at the history and current effects of the compound. It gives a look at the history of the chemical. It shows some of the victims of its impacts. It exposes corporate attempts to hide their complicity and their indiscriminate dumping of the substance. It also looks at the ongoing attempts to ban its usage and fight for the rights of the victims of its horrific consequences.

The People vs. Agent Orange is not easy viewing, but it is very important viewing. The more things like this are exposed to the light, the more we can hopefully finally move past this kind of corporate greed and malfeasance.


Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2021 All rights reserved. Posted: March 5, 2021.


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