In conversation with Jared Groneman

It’s been over a year since Jared Groneman took off for Vietnam to be the director of photography on The 2 Sides Project documentary. Jared captured everything he saw, from the dramatic meetings between sons and daughters who lost fathers on both sides of war to the jolting bus rides through city streets to the tiniest of bees pollinating a flower. As he gets ready for the film’s premiere at the GI Film Festival in May, Jared reflects on his experiences in Vietnam, and what he hopes people see in the film. (All photos courtesy Jared Groneman)

 

What did you think when you saw the first cut of the film?
For a while, a lot of the trip kind of disappeared into the background because Nora, the editor and writer, was so deep into developing it. Once I saw the first cut, I got to experience it all over again. It was so refreshing!

 A pigeon promenade on temple grounds. 

A pigeon promenade on temple grounds. 

Is this your first feature length film?
Yes. I haven’t done anything this long before. It was such a crazy experience, so quick and fast and intense. I just didn’t want to screw up. Anyone can throw a GoPro up on the back of a bus and let it roll. That’s footage. I was trying to feel my way through the trip. I wanted to get the shot, but also get the right context. I wanted to capture as much of the experience as possible.

 Bananas roll down the street at dawn in Hanoi. 

Bananas roll down the street at dawn in Hanoi. 

Do you have a favorite shot?
Don’t make me pick one! I love the shots we got hanging out of the bus in the cities, all the scooters.

 A hawk high up in Halong Bay. 

A hawk high up in Halong Bay. 

You filmed a lot of nature, too, didn’t you?
I do that all the time. On any shoot, I seek out the birds and the wildlife. Anthony, the director, will sometimes look at my shots and say "what the heck are you doing?!" But I’m really attracted to wildlife. It might be because I stare at a computer screen all day. I’m interacting with things in a digital environment all the time, and I like to detach and connect with the real world. I love nature. It gives me some balance. We recently bought a house and moved away from the city. We’re on a half acre and it feels like the wild kingdom back there.

 A rare bee comes in for a landing.

A rare bee comes in for a landing.

Are you ready for the premiere?
I’m very excited. All who have experienced the film have great things to say about it. I want to see what people disconnected from it have to say. 

 The photographer's selfie. 

The photographer's selfie. 

What’s your hope for the 2 Sides Project film?
There’s so much overload these days. You see tons of videos on social, and they’re cute, but then they’re gone from your mind. I want this to be a story that stays with you, that informs the people who watch it, to tell them there is a lot more that goes into conflict and war. There are repercussions to all we do. War is a complex subject. I hope this might ground people’s vision of what happens after war ends.