Two women, one American and one Vietnamese, fight to hold the chemical industry accountable for a devastating legacy.
The award-winning documentary “The People vs. Agent Orange” follows the primary component of the notorious chemical Agent Orange. The film, directed by Kate Taverna and Alan Adelson, follows resistance in the United States, France, and Vietnam, and features Carol Van Strum, an active participant in Rights of Nature organizing in Oregon and lawmaking campaigns in Lincoln County.
The film has been premiering across the nation, including screenings co-sponsored by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
Its national premier is on June 28, 2021 on PBS’ Independent Lens.
The inspiring and enraging film follows women-led resistance to the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war, and its use in Oregon, following the war. The viewer witnesses intimate behind-the-scenes access to grassroots resistance in Oregon and Vietnam and gut-wrenching first-person accounts of sacrifice and resolve.
As part of her activism, Van Strum of Oregon has supported lawmaking efforts in Lincoln County to ban aerial spraying and recognize rights of ecosystems. This work has led her to become the human spokesperson for the Siletz River watershed in active litigation coming out of a challenge to the aerial spray ban Lincoln County enacted in 2017. That law successfully banned aerial pesticide spraying for over two years.
Van Strum has accomplished a lot while dealing with seismic personal tragedies — one directly connected to her activism and another due to systemic racism. In her book A Bitter Fog, she writes that “it [community rights] is the ticket to overturn the corporate rule of law.”
Her work, alongside Community Rights Lane County, was the subject of an investigation by The Intercept into corporate backlash to rights-based organizing in Oregon.
The Agent Orange catastrophe did not end with the war in Vietnam. Today, all over the world, a primary component of that toxic herbicide controls weeds in farming, forestry, parks–even on children’s playgrounds. The chemical wreaks havoc on the human genome, causing deformed births and deadly cancers. After decades of struggle and tragic personal losses, two heroic women are leading a worldwide movement to end the plague and hold the manufacturers accountable.
In France, Tran To Nga is suing the American chemical industry for poisoning her in Vietnam. In America, Carol Van Strum exposes the continuing use of toxic herbicides. Incriminating documents disappear. Activists are threatened. A helicopter technician secretly films the contamination of reservoirs, while a massive industrial cover-up goes on.
Watch the documentary trailer: