Lyrical, intimate and sometimes humorous, Souvenirs is a eulogy in film. Following Vietnam Veteran Andy Pelecis' suicide, his daughter Mara seeks to understand Why he was the way he was. In meeting with other war veterans, she witnesses the labyrinth of surviving the peace. With each Vet she meets, she finds a piece of her dad. Learn more
My dad, Ivars "Andy" Pelecis (1938-2002), was a child refugee from Latvia and served in the US Army from 1962-1963 at Bien Hoa Medical Air Base
I started asking my dad questions about Vietnam in second grade. He wore his Army jacket while doing yard work, and he taught me how to shoot the tops off of 2 liter pop bottles with a 22 when I was about seven. But he never answered any questions about Vietnam.
It was just before his last hospitalization at the VA Hospital in 2002 that he gave me all of his slides from Vietnam. That fall, living in Riga, Latvia, I created an installation of these images at the Latvian Museum of War. The shock of his death only two months later led me back home to Minnesota, where on the anniversary of his death, I reread Jim Northrup's book Walking the Rez Road. Jim responded to an email I wrote him, and invited me to visit. From that day onward, I started visiting Veterans on a regular basis. Every time I visited Vets, I always felt my dad was close by.
I returned to the Vietnamese restaurant Vina where my dad and I often ate, and met with South Vietnamese Veteran, Phong Phan. I began attending various Veterans' events across the Twin Cities, from official government organized events to Vets for Peace meetings. My mom and I drove out to DC on a whim to see Rolling Thunder's Ride to the Wall over Memorial Day Weekend, where I met those who had come to gather from all across the country.
In the spring of 2005 I was invited to create an exhibition of my work with Souvenirs at the MInnesota Center for Photography, where we also held a screening of the inital interviews. After this, I was invited to create short videos for the Minnesotans' Military Appreciation Fund, a bi-partisan non-profit that helps soldiers and families. In hearing the young Soldiers' stories upon coming home, it became even more evident how universal some of the homecoming stories are, even generations later.
Placing this journey into a 90 minute space took me seven years. The interview footage with my dad, my family, goes back 20 years, and the archival images that I was able to use are part of our growing family archive since fleeing Latvia during World War II. It was both the memory of my father, and the words of my mother, that kept me going: If talking about this can help even one person avoid the same fate, then let's talk about it. View the trailer
Julie Black Elk, PhD
Counselor, Native Americans and Combat Stress Syndrome
Wesley Black Elk
USMC, Vietnam Veteran
US Army, Vietnam | Member of Rolling Thunder
Sgt. Ronald Huff
Minnesota National Guard, Persian Gulf War and Iraq
USMC, Vietnam | Singer/Songwriter, band "Homeland"
Scott County Veterans' Service Officer, Minnesota
Chap. Lt. Col. John Morris
Minnesota National Guard, Iraq | Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Soldier Reintegration Program
USMC, Vietnam Veteran | Native American Author
Daughter of Andy Pelecis
Wife of Andy Pelecis
South Vietnamese Military Police | Owner of Vina Vietnamese restaurant in
St. Paul, MN
Heather Pipes, PhD
US Army, Vietnam | Veterans For Peace
US Navy | Veterans For Peace
US Army, Vietnam
US Air Force, Persian Gulf | Veterans For Peace
Director | Producer | Editor
Producer | Editor
Composition | Sound Design