DVD Review: THE VIETNAM WAR: A FILM BY KEN BURNS AND LYNN NOVICK (PBS Distribution)

by Dale Reynolds on November 4, 2017

in CD-DVD

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I’VE LOOKED AT WAR FROM BOTH SIDES NOW

As a producer/director, Ken Burns is an artist of such high value on so many levels that he cannot be over-praised. For the past thirty-six years he has produced extraordinary documentaries which have educated, enlightened and entertained. Beginning with Brooklyn Bridge (1981) Burns’s amazing array of films includes The Civil War (1990), Jazz (2001), Baseball (1994, updated in 2010), The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009) and dozens of other subjects.

His latest, The Vietnam War, continues that cycle of excellence. Boldly showing us both political sides of the conflict, including its beginnings in the nineteenth century, exposing the fatal French attempts to keep Vietnam as a colony, he has reaped the seeds he plants onscreen.

Running over eighteen hours on ten disks, his narrative flow is illuminated with carefully researched and chosen news reels and home filming by participants on both sides of the active battles. Most of the American soldiers and officers understand how they were duped into fighting a government they didn’t understand, especially in how motivated by nation-building the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese regulars were. Burns and co-director Lynn Novick are careful to put both armies on an equal footing, which undoubtedly will enrage the war-mongers on our side.

It’s an exhaustive view of the titanic battles that were waged in support of corrupt South Vietnamese politicians and unyielding dictator-shaped armies.  The directors had plenty of footage to use in building their stories, and it is instructive.

No nation can fully succeed in its intellectual and emotional growth by living on untruths. No matter one’s political memories of the 1961-1975 war, it was unjustified in that is was unwinnable on our side.

This set belongs in every high school curriculum and every county’s public library. It is the main way of not stumbling into other, even worse, wars, which undermines any population’s trust in its own government.

stills courtesy of PBS

The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
PBS Distribution
10 discs | 1080 minutes | not rated
released on DVD and Blu-ray September 19, 2017
available at shopPBS and Amazon

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