Review of The Vietnam War (2017)

Moving picture, 10 hours

Seen in 2018.

The Vietnam war in 10 one-hour episodes, starting with the French and the partition, and ending with the fall of Saigon and some tributes to Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, but focusing mainly on Presidential apathy, civil rights parallels and the experiences of surviving US and Vietnamese soldiers.

Ken Burns documentary. There are very few brief but oh-so annoying moments where cheap techniques have been used to create the impression of seeing events that weren’t actually filmed, and Trent Reznor’s original music isn’t very appropriate. The period music, a parade of the best-ageing hits, is a little too iconic and therefore fails to set the scene realistically. Still, the historical material is all good. I watched this with the flu in 2018; the more exhausted I became by the disease, the more moving the series was to me.

Favourite anecdote: Vincent Okamoto, who’d been in a US concentration camp for Japanese people, accidentally discovers a VC tunnel because he gets hungry for his mother’s steamed rice. He trades part of his army ration for a bowl, takes seconds, and defends himself to his men saying the old woman cooking the rice has enough for twelve men, realizing the salience of this fact only as he says it. A once-oppressed cultural minority gives the army a body-count win by that eerie accident.

moving picture non-fiction series