The final film is a real knock-out that I love showing to my students in Peace Studies. Not only is Baez a remarkable singer and performer, but she is also one of the premier activists in our country’s history. Think about it — at the age of 22 she is on the cover of TIME magazine for her iconic presence on the revitalizing folk music stage. So what does she do? She joins the civil rights movement before most people even heard about it; she actively engages in anti-war activities throughout the American War in Viet Nam; and she continues her work to this day. All at great risk to her musical career. Amazing. Great soundtrack too. Running time: 110 minutes.
GOLD LEAF FILM SERIES: THE AMERICAN WAR IN VIET NAM THROUGH A DIFFERENT LENS
This war has been written about, “documented,” sliced and diced for decades. The latest attempt to capture its significance in our national psyche was the monumental Burns and Novicks extravaganza. Many of us walked away from that viewing experience exhausted and some satisfied, but many not. As with any human endeavor, this film could not “get it all.” What was missing? Well, the great historian (and Veterans For Peace member) Howard Zinn points out that there is no such thing as an objective historical account. We all have our own ideologies that frame our memories to some extent. We may not always lie, but we do prioritize based on this ideological grounding. Historians are human, too. So, Burns and Novicks worked off a basic foundation that the United States is an “exceptional” country that, in the case of this war, made “strategic mistakes” that doomed our noble attempt to free the Vietnamese from tyranny. Not all of us buy that premise. Including many veterans of the war. I would like to show five films that frame the American War in Viet Nam in a slightly different way — not all of them exclusively “ant-war,” but there is a definite bent in that direction. Dr. Zinn used to begin most of his writing and speeches with a disclaimer at the front end — “here’s what I think and why.” Here’s what I think: the war was immoral, unjust, and profoundly damaging to the Vietnamese people and to us (not to mention Australians and South Koreans and Thai , Laotian, and Cambodian people as well).