JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 267
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Nancy K. Miller
The narrator emphasizes Kim's voluntary participation in the narra-
tive process: "Kim Phuc, now a mother, wants to tell her story for the sake
of her son-one day." Kim 's Story-the film-is the account of an
identity reconstructed through first-person testimony. It is driven by a
mother's desire to have a document for her child to know her by; he
already recognizes her suffering through the scars on her back, scars that
when he touches them, make him say "Mom hurt." (For the child, of
course, the mute scars belong to the mother's, not the girl's body. The
second photograph in which Kim as mother cradles her infant son while
displaying her scarred back is featured in the film.) This structure of
personal transmission-justifying one's autobiographical existence by
relation to a significant other-that is historically common to women's
autobiographies, is doubled here with an equally powerful public mis-
sion. Kim's willingness to tell her story is cast as an escape out of her
"private battles on the road to forgiveness-forgiveness that requires a
public forum; forgiveness that can "help in a much wider healing."9 Kim,
who had made known her desire to see the wall, has been invited to speak
at a memorial service on Veteran's Day in Washington in 1996. "The
world remembers Kim Phuc," the man introducing her says; this is the
man-Jan C. Scruggs, president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Fund-who was the force behind the creation of the Vietnam Veterans
Memorial. The camera follows Kim to the first step of this journey of
reconciliation at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall-and the last
scene of the movie.
Who is Kim as she now remembers in the presence of veterans, and
for the future viewers ofthe film? "As you know," she says addressing the
audience ofveterans in uniform and their families, "I am the little girl who
was running to escape the napalm fire." This kind of collapsing of past and
present tenses is typical of traumatic memory, memory that recurs in
visual form-like the televised version of the photograph, which runs
through her head at the end of the documentary. At the end of the Kim 's
Road, as taps is heard, the camera stays focused on Kim's face against the
background of names on the black granite wall, as she fights back tears.
This is almost the only time in the film that Kim isn't smiling (sometimes
she smiles through her tears).o
The girl identifies herself in the present not the past tense, the
temporal freeze oftraumatic memory. As she is quoted elsewhere with the
republication of her photograph: "I see the bombs. I see the fire. I run and
run."'' As in the display at the Museum of Tolerance that juxtaposes the
photograph of the burning girl with that ofthe healed woman, the viewers
Here’s what’s next.
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/13/: accessed December 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .