Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn?


Century Larkspur 3 Sun, Oct 7, 2018 4:00 PM
Rafael 2 Tue, Oct 9, 2018 3:15 PM
Film Info
Category:Active Cinema
Section:Valley of the Docs
Running Time:78 min.
Premiere Status:World
Director:Zachary Stauffer
Producer:Zachary Stauffer
Cinematographer:Zachary Stauffer
Editor:Eli Olson
Print Source:Zachary Stauffer
Note Writer:Michael LoPresti


The married father of two young sons with a degree from the United States Naval Academy, 29-year-old Navy Lt. Wes Van Dorn died when the helicopter he was piloting crashed off the coast of Virginia Beach, VA, during a 2014 training exercise. Motivated by her grief, his wife Nicole seeks an explanation for the cause of the disaster. Her efforts spur a local reporter’s investigation, which uncovers a long history of negligence and institutional failings around the MH-53 helicopter—the model Van Dorn was piloting when he was killed, and among the deadliest aircraft in the US military fleet. Through incisive reporting and interviews with Van Dorn’s colleagues and family, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? is at once a poignant picture of one family's tragedy and a revelatory inquiry into the murky inner-workings of the American defense establishment.

Expected Guests: Director Zachary Stauffer; Associate Producer Jason Paladino  (All Screenings)

Additional Information

Zachary Stauffer is a staff producer at UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program and its primary director of photography. Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? is his first feature documentary. Throughout his career, he’s contributed to a number of documentary films, many for PBS Frontline, including Money and March Madness (2011), Murdoch’s Scandal (2012), and the DuPont award-winning Rape in the Fields (2013), and its follow-ups, Rape on the Night Shift (2015) and Trafficked in America (2018). His short documentary, A Day in the Life of Oakland, about the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey, premiered at the 2008 Mill Valley Film Festival.