Liberation Radio at the Leeds International Film Festival

Professor Esther Johnson is a jury member for the Leeds International Film Festival running from 3-18 November 2021. Esther will also present her research Liberation Radio at the festival on both the evening of the 13th and 16th of November. The film will be available to view on Leeds Player during the festival.

The work focuses on the little-known history of the North Vietnam ‘Liberation Radio’ station broadcasting from Hanoi in the 1960s-1970s. In 1968, a group of American military deserters went to the North Vietnamese mission in Stockholm with one object in mind – to join the army they had been drafted to fight. Instead, they were recruited for the propaganda war – and use magnetic tape, pop music and political rhetoric to persuade other American servicemen to desert. Their recordings were transported from Sweden to Vietnam by diplomatic bag, and broadcast from transmitters on the rooftops of Hanoi, and revolutionary bases in the countryside. The work includes contributions from some of the surviving American deserters, Swedish anti-war activists, and Vietnamese journalists of the period. The project has been supported by the FAMLAB (Film, Archives and Music Lab) Fund as part of the British Council’s Heritage of Future Past project in Việt Nam.

‘Liberation Radio’ premiered earlier this year as a film installation at Manzi ArtSpace in Hanoi, Vietnam, and in October at the 65th BFI London Film Festival.

Esther is currently working on another project in Vietnam titled DUST & METAL, a feature film utilising never-before-seen archive material from the Vietnam Film Institute, and with a live score from electroacoustic/electronic composer and performer Xo Xinh. This film is due to have Vietnam, US and UK premieres in 2022.


Esther Johnson works at the intersection of artist moving image and documentary. Her poetic portraits focus on marginal worlds, revealing resonant stories that may otherwise remain hidden or ignored. Work has been exhibited internationally in 40 countries, and has also featured on television and radio. In 2012 Johnson won the Philip Leverhulme Prize in Performing and Visual Arts for young scholars. She is a Professor of Film & Media Art at Sheffield Hallam University. Find out more about Esther’s work HERE.