Becoming a force for peace

January 24, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach

"Regret to Inform," Barbara Sonneborn admits, is a film with a purpose.

"We are asking women from all over the world to join us, women who have been widowed or involved in wars on any side," Sonneborn says over the phone from New York, where she's finishing a seven-city tour in support of the film and its mission. "We are inviting women to become an unprecedented force for peace."

An opponent of the war even before her first husband was killed, Sonneborn, 55, spent nearly 10 years putting together the film. The going wasn't easy at first. Vietnam was an unpopular war, and people were still hesitant to talk about their involvement. Only one woman answered an early call for interview subjects in the San Francisco area.

But then, Sonneborn says, the Gulf War broke out, women decided it was time to sound a few cautionary notes about war, "and people kind of came out of the woodwork."

Things got even easier in Vietnam, where "they were lining up around the block," Sonneborn says.

"Certainly there is some anger on the part of some individuals," she says of her trip to Vietnam. "But the Vietnamese people know there were different levels of support for the war, that a lot of people were against it. In fact, I had one woman who came to me and said, `We know that a lot of those young men did not want to be here, that their country made them go.' "

"When I first started the film, I felt so passionate about the issues," says Sonneborn, who was living in Chicago when she became a war widow, but now lives in Berkeley, Calif. "It was my hope that people would have their hearts touched. I knew I had gotten incredible interviews; my challenge was to make a good film."

Women who want to share their stories may log on to the interactive online International Widows of War Memorial at www.regret toinform.org.

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