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June 2 - June 24, 2006

At Home and Abroad: The Vietnam War on Film

As we continue our extended examination of the implications of conflict, we present a collection of documentaries and essayistic works which reflect on U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. While Vietnam has provided material for many compelling dramatic works, this series focuses on nonfiction and experimental works which documented the unpopular escalation of American intervention as well as the growing protest movement that radically altered popular culture.

Special thanks to Millarium Zero, UCLA Film and Television Archive, Nancy De Antonio, Bestor Cram, Karen Turner, Jon Jost, Canyon Cinema, Zipporah Films, Balcony Releasing, First Run/Icarus Films, Filmmakers Cooperative, First Run Features, Third World Newsreel, Rialto Pictures, Women Make Movies and New Yorker Films.

 


June 2 (Friday) 7 pm
June 6 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Winter Soldier

Directed by Winterfilm Collective
US 1972, b/w and color, 95 min.

In 1971, following the wake of the My Lai massacre, Vietnam Veterans Against the War invited dozens of vets—many of whom had begun to reconsider their actions overseas—to share their experiences at a gathering in Detroit. This simply filmed and collectively directed documentation of their harrowing stories provides a context for the psychological mindset that led to the brutal acts of rape, torture, and murder committed by American soldiers. Having been trained to regard their enemies as less than human, they soon became inhuman themselves, with horrifying results.

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June 2 (Friday) 9 pm

Newsreel Shorts: Protest Films

Established in 1967, Newsreel was an activist collective which maintained a fierce commitment to social change. These five short films document the growth of the anti-war movement of the 1960s.

 


Boston Draft Resistance Group
Directed by Newsreel Collective
US 1968, b/w, 18 min.

Profiling the work of a Boston-based grassroots organization which helped draftees explore their legal options for resisting military service, this documentary portrait offers a thoughtful critique of patriotic obligation.


Mill-In
Directed by Newsreel Collective
US 1968, b/w, 12 min.

As Christmas Eve shoppers shuffled about Fifth Avenue, a group of demonstrators took to the streets to raise awareness of the war and make a direct assault on complacency and consumerism.


No Game
Directed by Newsreel Collective US
1968, b/w, 17 min.

In 1967, 100,000 protesters marched on Washington to demand an end to the Vietnam War. Several filmmakers documented these events, following the protest from its peaceful origins at the Lincoln Monument to a more aggressive confrontation at the Pentagon.


America
Directed by Newsreel Collective
US 1969, b/w, 30 min.

Presenting a range of voices of dissent, America includes conversations with suburban teenagers, recently returned veterans, and African-American militants, all committed to ending the war in Vietnam.


Only the Beginning
Directed by Newsreel Collective
US 1971, b/w, 21 min.

In April 1971, thousands of veterans descended on Washington to raise their voices in protest to the atrocities of the war in Vietnam. This powerful document is one of the few which remains true to the perspective of those who served in battle.

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June 4 (Sunday) 7 pm
June 6 (Tuesday) 9 pm

In the Year of the Pig

Directed by Emile de Antonio
US 1968, b/w, 103 min.

During the throes of American intervention in Vietnam, de Antonio produced a visceral anti-war document. Contrary to dominant public opinion in the U.S., the filmmaker perceived Ho Chi Minh as a great patriot of the Vietnamese people, and crafted a work which condemned the efforts of imperial powers to overthrow the regime. Inspired by the experimentation of musician John Cage, de Antonio employs collage techniques, combining archival footage of the war (borrowed largely from unwitting television stations) and interviews conducted by the filmmaker with ironically heroic musical pieces. A groundbreaking political work, In the Year of the Pig was greeted with great hostility upon its release, including bomb threats and vandalism at theaters which booked the film.

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June 4 (Sunday) 9 pm

Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam

Directed by Bill Couturié
US 1987, color, 87 min.

One of the more widely acclaimed accounts of the Vietnam War, this made-for-HBO film, which received honors at the Emmy Awards and the Sundance Film Festival, is astounding in its simple presentation. Director Bill Couturié combines film materials from the NBC-TV archives, the Pentagon, and private Super-8 collections with audio performances of actual letters from serving soldiers. The readings—performed by Robert De Niro, Sean Penn and Ellen Burstyn, among others—capture both the mundane aspects of life in between battles and the longing of soldiers to be true to their mission and come home safely.

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June 7 (Wednesday) 7 pm

High School

Directed by Frederick Wiseman
US 1968, b/w, 75 min.

Although documentarian Frederick Wiseman was renowned for his interrogations of American institutions, his second directorial effort is equally revealing as a snapshot of a generation in transition. Filmed in a suburban Philadelphia high school, the film captures the quiet moments in the daily life of the students as well as the more dramatic confrontations between authority figures and those who resist. Especially stirring is the reading of a letter from a former student serving in Vietnam, a fate which may have loomed for some members of the graduating class.

Basic Training

Directed by Frederick Wiseman
US 1971, b/w, 89 min.

Shot in his trademark observational style during the summer of 1970 at Fort Knox in Kentucky, Wiseman investigates the transformation of ordinary civilians into highly trained killers, most of whom will inevitably go off to serve in Southeast Asia. Closely following the soldiers' day-to-day progress—from mandatory haircuts upon arrival to hours of bayonet training—Basic Training highlights the loss of individuality at the hands of a system that demands unquestioning obedience and total conformity; those who resist or cannot keep up face punishment and humiliation.

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June 10 (Saturday) 7 pm

March on the Pentagon

Directed by David Ringo
US 1968, b/w, 20 min.

Ringo constructs a poetic reflection on the 1967 March on the Pentagon organized by the Youth International Party, aka the Yippies.

Sir! No Sir!

Directed by David Ziegler
US 2005, color, 85 min.

Sir! No Sir! documents G.I. resistance against the Vietnam War, an important part of the anti-war movement that is often minimized in historical accounts. Using archival footage from the 1960s and 1970s along with present-day interviews with many resisters, the film describes the anti-war counter-culture that developed on bases, on battlefields, and inside military colleges. The film also includes rare footage from Jane Fonda’s “anti-USO” tour, as well as a current-day interview with Fonda in which she defends her controversial actions

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June 10 (Saturday) 9 pm

The Draft Card Burner

Directed by Hilary Harris
US 1966, b/w, silent, 7 min.

The film documents a series of demonstrations opposing the draft which were held in New York City in 1965.

Peace Pickets Arrested for Disturbing the Peace

Directed by Leonard Henny
US 1968, color, 7 min.

This documentary depicts the preparations for and the development of the October 1967 non-violent, anti-draft demonstration at the Oakland Induction Center that led to the arrest of folk singer Joan Baez and twenty pacifists.

Viet Flakes

Directed by Carolee Schneeman
US 1966, b/w, 11 min.

Over the course of five years, experimental filmmaker Carolee Schneeman compiled this collection of images of atrocity in Vietnam using international magazines and newspapers as her source. Schneeman’s striking imagery is made all the more powerful by James Tenney’s inventive soundscape, which combines religious chants, Bach, and 1960s pop hits.

First Kill

Directed by Coco Schrijber
Netherlands 2001, color, 52 min.

First Kill explores the complexities of war in an astonishing and disconcerting way. Through interviews with Vietnam veterans, director Coco Schrijber reveals the horrors of war as well as its vicious thrills, or what one former war correspondent refers to as “the upside of war.”  Though most of the veterans acknowledge regret and remorse over their actions, this documentary recognizes the ever-present capacity for human beings to commit disturbing acts of violence.

 

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June 12 (Monday) 7 pm

New Left Note

Directed by Saul Levine
US 1968/1982, 16mm, color, silent, 28 min.

As editor of New Left Notes, the newspaper of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), filmmaker Saul Levine was at the center of multiple radical political movements.  For this film, he employs a rapid fire editing style to create a frenetic, kaleidoscopic portrait of the antiwar movement, women’s liberation and the Black Panthers.

Starting Place (Point du Départ)

Directed by Robert Kramer
France 1993, color, 83 min.
English, French, and Vietnamese with English subtitles

Produced late in his career, Robert Kramer returns to Hanoi after nearly 25 years to re-envision the city’s struggle through an uncertain and daunting past, present, and future. The Vietnamese characters in the film are diverse: Kramer’s former guide from an earlier visit in 1969; a tight-rope walker in the national circus; a man who took photos of B-52s, and another who lost his fingers shooting them down.

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June 12 (Monday) 9 pm

Newsreel Shorts: Robert Kramer and John Douglas

Activist filmmakers Robert Kramer and John Douglas were at the forefront of the Newsreel Collective. This program presents two of the many notable films they produced with this influential group.


Summer '68
Directed by Norman Fruchter and John Douglas
US 1968, b/w, 60 min.

Fruchter and Douglas craft a compelling document of the events leading up to the volatile 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Focusing specifically on the growth of the radical movement in the U.S., the film presents their struggles to find a proper medium for their activist message.


People's War
Directed by Robert Kramer and John Douglas
North Vietnam 1969, b/w, 40 min.

In 1969, the Newsreel Collective was invited to film a statement by Ho Chi Minh to the American people. Due to Ho’s failing health, filmmakers Robert Kramer and John Douglas were unable to record this testimony and instead focused on documenting the daily life of the North Vietnamese people who struggled to maintain normalcy after years of colonial rule. Although seized by Army intelligence, the film became one of the most renowned documents of the war.

 

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June 14 (Wednesday) 7 pm

The War at Home

Directed by Barry Brown and Glenn Silber
US 1979, color, 100 min.

Tracing the emergence of the 60s and 70s antiwar movement, this Oscar-nominated documentary recalls a time when a significant number of US citizens forcefully opposed their government. The events that took place at the University of Madison at Wisconsin—including the bombing of the Army Math Research Center by four angry students—serve as a microcosm of the growing nationwide protest, and numerous interviews with activists help separate the stereotypes about protestors from the real people behind the movement.

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June 14 (Wednesday) 9 pm

Return With Honor

Directed by Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders
US 1998, color, 102 min.

Downed American pilots taken captive by North Vietnamese troops faced excruciating physical and psychological conditions: elaborate torture techniques, squalid cells, disease, madness, and the thought of never returning home again. Their tales of survival are recounted here in interviews and supplemented with footage shot both before their imprisonment, and after, as Viet Cong propaganda. Remarkable feats born out of desperation abound—prisoners communicated with each other by tapping out codes, and one pilot, also an artist, drew pictures on the walls with his own blood.

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June 16 (Friday) 7 pm
June 18 (Sunday) 7 pm

Hearts and Minds

Directed by Peter Davis, appearing in person June 16
US 1974, color, 112 min.

A landmark documentary, this comprehensive examination of the Vietnam conflict on both sides of the Pacific remains definitive and meaningful. Assembled from an impressive array of interviews, combat footage, and more, Davis carefully weaves a tale of events and personalities both large and small into a powerful tapestry that ranges from the grief of Vietnamese civilians burying loved ones to the staggering ignorance of American officials. Hearts and Minds is an iconic statement of the anti-war zeitgeist of the early 70s, and won the 1974 Academy Award for Best Documentary.

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June 16 (Friday) 9 pm

Which Way is East

Directed by Lynne Sachs
US 1994, color, 33 min.

In this diaristic work filmmaker Lynn Sachs travels from Saigon to Hanoi with her sister, Dana, a reporter living in Vietnam. Along the way, the two sisters offer their own reflections on the war—which they experienced largely through the lens of American television—as they encounter a completely changed country from the one they learned to fear as children.

Investigation of a Flame

Directed by Lynne Sachs
US 2001, b/w and color, 45 min.

Lynne Sachs’s Investigation of a Flame is an intimate and experimental documentary portrait of nine suburban protesters who walked into a Cantonsville, Maryland draft board office on May 17, 1968, grabbed hundreds of selective service records, and burned them with homemade napalm. Over the last two years, Sachs tracked down six of the seven living members of the Cantonsville Nine (including Daniel and Philip Berrigan Berrigan)—now in their late sixties—and interviewed and interviewed them about their politically and religiously motivated action. Sachs’s poetic essay about the resistance of citizens at the height of the Vietnam War explores not only their act of civil disobedience but the profoundly personal ways in which the revelations and disappointments of aging have contributed to their retrospective ambivalence about the experience.

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June 18 (Sunday) 9 pm

Newsreel Shorts: Santiago Alvarez

In the tradition of great propagandists such as Dziga Vertov and Frank Capra, Santiago Alvarez was driven by political ideology—specifically the ideals of Castro’s revolution. In these films, Alvarez offers his unique and controversial perspective on the Vietnam era.

L.B.J.
Directed by Santiago Alvarez
Cuba 1967, b/w, 20 min.

Alvarez shows no mercy in skewering Lyndon B. Johnson using old movie clips and cartoons to parody his cowboy image. He also employs an inventive, audacious formal structure in which he implicates the former president in the murders of Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers.

79 Springs (79 primaveras)
Directed by Santiago Alvarez
Cuba 1969, b/w, 25 min.

Interweaving still photos and newsreel footage and making expressive use of split-screen and freeze frame techniques, Alvarez crafts a lyrical tribute to Ho Chi Minh, the leader of Vietnam’s independence movement. The film’s title refers to Ho’s age at the time of his death.

Hanoi, Tuesday The 13th
Directed by Santiago Alvarez Cuba
1967, b/w, 40 min.

On December 13, 1966 the city of Hanoi was enduring the height of U.S. bombing. Alvarez documents the lives of the North Vietnamese as they continue living and working amidst the ongoing assault.

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June 20 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Breathe In/Breathe Out

Directed by Beth B
US/Vietnam 2000, color, 70 min.

The generation gap is difficult enough to bridge on its own—add a father's service in Vietnam and the gap gets even wider. Following three veterans and their grown children back to the land where they witnessed incredible carnage as soldiers, director Beth B investigates "what we pass on from one generation to the next" in the hope that the experience will help both fathers and children come to grips with the war and each other. In doing so, she provides proof that the trauma of war does not end when peace begins.

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June 20 (Tuesday) 8:30 pm

Surname Viet Given Name Nam

Directed by Trinh T. Minh-ha
US 1989, color, 108 min.

Born in Hanoi and raised in South Vietnam, Trinh T. Minh-ha’s intensely personal Surname Viet Given Name Nam weaves dance, poetry, and politics with interviews with Vietnamese women from North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States. By giving voice to their experiences as well as her own, Trinh highlights the struggles of women in both traditional and contemporary societies and raises questions about identity and culture.

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June 21 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Unfinished Symphony: Democracy & Dissent

Directed by Bestor Cram (appearing in person) and Michael Majoros
US 2001, color, 60 min.

Unfinished Symphony: Democracy & Dissent is a remarkable document of civil disobedience in action. In May of 1971, Vietnam Veterans Against the War planned a protest march retracing the route, in reverse, of Paul Revere’s ride from Boston to Concord. Beginning in Concord, the demonstrators marched to Lexington and tried to camp overnight on Lexington Green. Local politicians, however, voted against accommodating the protestors, and over 400 people—including supporters from the town—were arrested.  Featuring footage of the protest and the war, the film is intercut with interviews with subjects such as historian Howard Zinn, and is set to the music of Henry Goreki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Souls.” 

How Far Home: Veterans After Vietnam

Directed by Bestor Cram, appearing in person
US 1982, color, 33 min

Boston-based filmmaker Bestor Cram documents the lives of veterans as they make the uneasy adjustment to civilian life after the war. The film and the soldiers reach an emotional crescendo at the long awaited dedication of the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C.

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June 21 (Wednesday) 9:15 pm
June 24 (Saturday) 7 pm

The Fog of War

Directed by Errol Morris
US 2003, 35mm, color, 95 min.

Reworking extensive interview and archival footage, Morris constructs a distinctly wry portrait of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. An integral figure in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy in the 1960s (including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban missile crisis, and the escalation of U.S. involvement in Vietnam), in recent years McNamara has expressed his personal and professional regrets about these historic events. Among the film's highlights are segments of rare taped telephone conversations between McNamara and his respective commanders in chief Kennedy and Johnson. Structured as eleven lessons from McNamara's life, Morris's uniquely probing technique vividly explores the moral complexity of the actions and beliefs of one of the major political figures of the Cold War era.

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June 22 (Thursday) 7 pm

Hidden Warriors: The Women of the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Directed by Karen Turner (appearing in person) and Phan Thanh Hao
US/Vietnam 2003, color, 46 min.

Hidden Warriors: Women of the Ho Chi Minh Trail is an important exploration of an often forgotten piece of the history of the Vietnam War – the women who fought. Through archival footage and current interviews, this film explores the experiences of the women during the war and examines how the war continues to affect their lives today.

 

 

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June 22 (Thursday) 8:30 pm

Newsreel Shorts: War and Its Aftermath

These short films from the Newsreel Collective focus on the lives of the Vietnamese as they struggled to survive the war and make a future for themselves.

Resist with Noam Chomsky
Directed by Newsreel Collective
US 1968, 16mm, b/w, 12 min.

In this recently rediscovered film, Noam Chomsky offers a candid critique of the Vietnam War which eerily resonates with current international policy in the U.S.

Young Puppeteers of Vietnam
South Vietnam 1969, b/w, 25 min

In liberated areas of South Vietnam, teenagers created beautiful puppets from the remains of downed U.S. warplanes. These young people traveled the countryside performing their unique brand of entertainment amidst the horrors of battle.

Bittersweet Survival
Directed by JT Takagi and Christine Choy
US 1982, color, 30 min.

The process of assimilation is never easy for immigrant communities but the challenges were especially great for Vietnamese refugees living in the U.S. following a long and unpopular war. Takagi and Choy document struggles throughout the country that include a fishing community in Monterey, California whose new cheap labor force must face the rancor of the older residents, and low-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia in which Vietnamese immigrants are pitted against disenfranchised African-Americans.

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June 25 (Sunday) 9 pm

For Life, Against the War

Directed by The Week of the Angry Arts
US 1967, 16mm, b/w and color, 150 min.

In 1967, a group of artists put out a call for “a personal declaration by American filmmakers for life and against the War.” The films were compiled and screened as part of The Week of the Angry Arts, a music and arts festival which mobilized the protest movement.  This remarkable compilation includes contributions from Manfred Kirkheimer, Peter Ellison, Ron Finne, Lee Savage, Lionel Martinez, Lloyd M. Williams, USCO, Peter Gessner, Hilary Harris, Leo Hurwitz, Peggy Lawson, Tommy Hurwitz, Lewis Jacobs, Stan Vanderbeek, Robert Fiore, Larry Jordan, Don Duga, Barbara Fultz, Stan Brakhage, Rudy Burckhardt, Nina Feinberg, Wendy Clarke, Shirley Clarke, Betty Ferguson, Maurice Amar, Richard Preston, Robert Breer, Max Phillips, Jerry Wakefield, Tom Bissenger, Ken Jacobs, Mark Sadan, Norman V. Berg, Fred Wellington, Allen Siegel, Allen Schaff, John Willemeyer, Henry J. Korn, Jonas Mekas, Abbott Meader, George Breidenbach, Abbe Borov, Ben Van Meter, Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, A.M. Jimenez, Stephen Sellinger, Victor Grauer, Charles Levine, Bob Kinney, Dave Lambert, Mat Hoffman, Karl Bissenger, and M-Movie Subscription Group. This preserved film print is provided by Anthology Film Archives.

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June 21 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Unfinished Symphony: Democracy & Dissent

Directed by Bestor Cram (appearing in person) and Michael Majoros
US 2001, color, 60 min.

Unfinished Symphony: Democracy & Dissent is a remarkable document of civil disobedience in action. In May of 1971, Vietnam Veterans Against the War planned a protest march retracing the route, in reverse, of Paul Revere’s ride from Boston to Concord. Beginning in Concord, the demonstrators marched to Lexington and tried to camp overnight on Lexington Green. Local politicians, however, voted against accommodating the protestors, and over 400 people—including supporters from the town—were arrested.  Featuring footage of the protest and the war, the film is intercut with interviews with subjects such as historian Howard Zinn, and is set to the music of Henry Goreki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Souls.” 

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