Milwaukee Filmmaker Documents Veteran's Journey Back to Vietnam

Jul 29, 2015

Thanks to the efforts of contemporary veterans and medical experts, public awareness of combat related post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is far more prevalent than it once was. Being diagnosed with it no longer carries the stigma it once did either in or out of the military. However, it was a different story for veterans like Tim "Naneek" Keenan.

Keenan is a Vietnam veteran from Traverse City, Michigan. He’s been dealing with PTSD since he returned from combat. In an attempt to heal and get closure, Keenan decided to return to the city in Vietnam where his worst memories were formed.

When local filmmaker Neal Steeno learned about Keenan’s plan, he asked if he could join and document the journey.

Steeno could not believe the reality young people like Tim Keenan faced during the Vietnam War. "If you could imagine getting out of high school and being thrown into a jungle, in the trauma of that fire coming at you and you had no choice in the matter...and then when you're done with your year of service...and you're brought back to the U.S. and they say, 'Well, go be normal.'  That's not normal," he says.

The resulting documentary, Naneek, chronicles Keenan’s journey back to Vietnam: visiting a hill where intense battles took place, immersing himself into Vietnamese culture and participating in a dinner party with a group of former North Vietnamese Army soldiers he fought against decades ago.

Ahead of the film’s premiere this week at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, Steeno shares his experience making the documentary and about its subject, Tim Keenan: