Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hearts And Minds

My American History Through Film class has moved on from The Civil Rights Movement to the Vietnam War (yet, another light and fluffy topic). Hearts and Minds, directed by Peter Davis, is a documentary chronicling the conflicting attitudes of Americans (both civilians and soldiers) and the Vietnamese towards the Vietnam War.

It features the MOST graphic and unabashedly raw footage from the actual war-and while this disturbed me deeply and left me with images that I will never be able to erase from my mind-it was imperative in revealing the REALITIES OF WAR that are usually kept quiet, glossed over, desensitized through "soft violence" reenactments in movies and documentaries, or spoken in vague abstractions that are hard to grasp without SEEING it. This film conveyed the magnitude of the senseless death, the permanent devastation of families, homes, villages, and communities, the fear and pressure that drives men to snap and commit abominable atrocities and become victims in the cycle of violence and revenge.

The astounding aspect of this film is that it was released in 1974, a mere year after the war officially ended. This was an extremely controversial move on the part of the filmmakers because emotions were still running HIGH, as well as the division over the legitimacy of the war. This film forced a nation that just wanted "to forget" to face the consequences of this war on the people of Vietnam: the mass bombings of *civilian* villages, children with their skin peeling off from the weaponry, the massacres in which the elderly, women, children, and babies were shot in cold blood, the horrendous psychological and physical damage done to our own troops, many of whom became consumed with callousness, disillusionment, and racism.

There are also interviews with directly affected Vietnamese people, journalists, public officials, and veterans of the war that recount personal experiences, deceptive tactics of the 5 presidential administrations that twisted and stretched information to justify the war, and how this propelled the rapid changes in political and social movements in the 1960s and 1970s in America.

Here are a few facts about the Vietnam War:

Between 1965 and 1973 the U.S. dropped more bombs on Vietnam than ALL OF THE BOMBS DROPPED ON THE ENTIRE GLOBE DURING WORLD WAR II, sprayed over 100 million pounds of chemicals that destroyed half the country's forests and killing thousands of people which became the most extensive use of chemical warfare in history. Almost 2 million Vietnamese people were killed throughout the war.

I recommend Hearts and Minds, not because it's fun to watch, but because SO often war is glorified as some idealistic noble quest in which there are always clear enemies and heroes. It is so much more complex to look at the other side and see the civilians who suffered as a result of the actions of their county and ours. As people of faith, it is important that we think about these ugly realities, risks, and aspects of war. So, because of that, I recommend it. But this film is very explicit. In fact, there was one quick scene that my teacher censored because it was apparently degrading to women. So, be forewarned, it is heart-wrenching, but eye-opening.


Jason Witt said...

Wow! I didn't know about these statistics! 2 million Vietnamese killed? That's something we don't hear about. And it is known that there were atrocities in Vietnam, but specifics are not common knowledge, at least not anymore. I would like to see the film.

Tia Lynn said...

Yeah, i think you would find this film mind-blowing. Just make sure you get tissues before you start to watch! :)

wild flower said...

When I watched "America Takes Charge," another Vietnam film, it completely annihilated my former view of war. I might give this one a try. It sounds horrifying, but it's most likely a necessary reminder of the horrifying reality of war. Thanks for recommending.