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Two filmmakers from Pensacola, Florida are gearing up to showcase their new Vietnam documentary, “Back to China Beach,” at this year’s Pensacola Film Festival, with hopes that the film will bring a better understanding of PTSD among Vietnam veterans. 

During the Vietnam war, there was a beach, nicknamed by US troops as “China Beach,” where troops would unwind during their rare down-time. The story of this unlikely sanctuary for US military members is what filmmakers Dave Barnes and Mike Cotton explored through their more than 100 interviews with Vietnam veterans, reported ABC 3 News.  

“The stories we heard over and over were…  ‘I was back in Pensacola’ or ‘I was back in Malibu’ or ‘I was back in Hawaii,’ it just took them away,” Cotton said.

“They went to china beach to get away from it, but they can also now tell about China Beach because that was the moment they had to become human again instead of fighting machines,” said Barnes.

“Even if they weren’t beach people, they could be from Kansas, you know your next R&R is coming up and you are going to get to go to China Beach for three days and get to have steaks and beer, learn to surf, or just hang out on the beach,” said Cotton. “They do talk about the power of the water, the power of the beach and there is something magical about that.”

The two filmmakers say they were surprised by how vivid the veteran’s memories of China Beach seemed to be, and how big of an impact the place left on them. 

“But these guys are still dealing with a lot of that stress and a lot of that that came from that war, that surprised me that it’s still very raw,” Barnes said. 

“Back to China Beach” will be screened at the Studer Community Institute as part of the Pensacola Film Festival on Saturday, February 29th, and Sunday, March 1st at 7 p.m.

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