Those who have seen the film,
Be Good, Smile Pretty, say they are taken aback by the
raw courage of filmmaker Tracy Tragos.
really struck by the courage it took for Tracy to pursue
such an emotional endeavor," said Ret. Lt. Col. Janis Nark,
after viewing the film at New York City's Lincoln Center in
Smile Pretty tells the story of Tragos' struggle to know
her father, U.S. Navy Lt. Donald Droz, who died in Vietnam
when she was three months old. By chronicling her journey,
the film explores profound loss and the need to know,
remember, and mourn the cost of war.
name comes from beyond the grave: It is the phrase Lt. Droz
used to close his many letters to his young bride, Judith.
Mike Coale was impressed over by the powerful first-person
surprised by how fast it brought tears to my eyes,"
he said. "I couldn't get over thinking, 'This could be my
wife. My daughter.' "
Tracy Tragos didn't
ask her mother a lot of questions about her dad. "There was
a lot of pain and sadness around my father's
she said. "I didn't want to hurt my mother."
memories she had of her dad were captured in the photographs
other people took and the stories other people told. Because
she was so young when her father died, people tended to
dismiss her grief. They told her she was lucky she didn't
have memories to haunt her. They told her she was blessed to
have such a loving step-father.
brought little comfort to a daughter who wanted to know the
sound of her father's voice, the timbre of his laughter, the
crinkle in his eyes, the security of his presence.
while surfing the internet in March 2001 that Tragos
discovered a first‑hand account of how her father was killed
in an ambush along the Mekong River. That discovery was the
starting point for Be Good, Smile Pretty.
hour-long film chronicles Tragos'
journey as she traveled the country in search of memories of
her father's family, his hometown friends, his classmates at
the U.S. Naval Academy, and his comrades in Vietnam. It's
an intimate and achingly honest look at the man her father
was, filled with all the tenderness and tension that is part
declaration that a daughter's grief and a widow's
grief are different reveals only a glimpse at the overwhelming
cost of one man's life to the family that loved him.
powerful are the relationships Tragos cultivates with her
father's comrades. Sen. John Kerry provides a high-profile
look at what it's like to be such a survivor.
role veterans can play in the families of the fallen rang
sincere with other Vietnam veterans. "What got me was just
seeing how much Tracy wanted to know who her father was and
how so many others like her want the same. It made me feel
like these are all our veterans children," Mike Coale said.
both family and veterans, will relate to the film, said Janis
Nark. "It's relevant and crucial to understanding the conflict
and its aftermath. There are so many people out there still in
pain that will benefit from seeing this film."
Smile Pretty is scheduled to be aired Veterans Day on PBS