Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s “The Vietnam War”

by Michelle C.

Have you been watching The Vietnam War on PBS? I’ve long been a fan of Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s documentaries. Their in-depth research into different times within American history results in unforgettable documentaries. Although each documentary has a definite point of view, there always seems to be a good mix of people interviewed and viewpoints shown.

I’m traveling to Vietnam next year with some friends on vacation. When I first heard about The Vietnam War, watching it seemed like the prudent thing to do. What did I really know about the country? Most of what I knew about Vietnam came from history lessons in school. Recently my father has started telling me some of what he encountered in Vietnam when he was in the war. But for many years he was silent about the war, not just to me, but my mother too.

The documentary opens with the premise that to understand the war, you need to understand the recent history of Vietnam. To achieve these aims, you are taken back to the nineteenth century to the French colonization of the country. The interplay between governments, people, and ideologies is shown in exacting detail as each action leads closer to the war. As the documentary continues, it focuses on both what is happening at home in the United States along with the action abroad. Attention is given to individuals from both sides of the fighting as they tell their stories. The result is emotional. It’s haunting.

I asked my father if he was going to watch the documentary and he said he hasn’t decided yet if he can watch it.

If you watched The Vietnam War, or you have it on hold, Sno-Isle Libraries has other documentaries that you may also be interested in.

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5 responses to “Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s “The Vietnam War””

  1. Brian says:

    I’ve not yet seen this documentary but plan to watch it. I am listening to the soundtrack already though. From Hoopla. and have looked at some of the background in the music selections.

  2. Jo Meador says:

    Ed and I have watched seven of the episodes so far. We find them not only informing, to one who served in Saigon and the other who supported the protests stateside, but we find them so compelling we cannot ignore them. The experience is so intense for us and so deeply rooted in who we are today, that we cannot watch more than one episode in a few days’ time. Informative, shocking to our sensibilities when events we were ignorant of are shown, overwhelming, and heart wrenching at times. This is the most powerful TV I have ever watched. So critical to our understanding of our nation and of the southeast asians involved in that war. A spark of genius led the film makers to cover all sides of the war from the warriors point of view as well as the peace makers. I am personally ashamed to note that we did not support the returning veterans, treating them as if the war were their fault. Ed is grateful for recognition of the tenuous position the American soldiers faced as they came home. Thank-you for the great reconciliation this brings to our nation.

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