Review: Ken Burns’ Vietnam Documentary Will Break Your Heart

Hailey Ellis, Arts & Life Editor • hmellis15@ehc.edu

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Courtesy of the official “The Vietnam War PBS” Facebook Page

The release of the 10-episode documentary “The Vietnam War” occurred this past month. The 18-hour documentary, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, goes all the way back to the 1850s when Vietnam was colonized by the French. Viewers of this documentary are treated to some grissly scenes such as decapitation, amongst other things that may be disturbing to watch.

This documentary shows the struggle of the Viet Minh as they attempt to regain their country’s independence from the French. “The Vietnam War” follows many including a young Ho Chi Minh during his search for western support of an independent Vietnam. As shown in the lm, the Viet Minh, led by Ho Chi Minh, would later be allied with the U.S. against the Japanese invaders. As most viewers know, this is a contrast to what we would see later with the U.S. as they fought North Vietnam in order to contain the spread of communism.

However, the story is more than just the politics surrounding allies turned enemies. A large variety of people were interviewed for “The Vietnam War”. The creators of this documentary have made an effort to hear from all sides, including the American soldiers, the Vietnamese, the Viet Cong, the doctors and nurses, as well as the POWs.

One particular Army surgeon, Hal Kushner, not only survived everything he went through as a POW, but still has an incredibly detailed recollection of his return to the United States. Watching Kushner re-tell this story sent me into an emotional tail-spin along with many other moments throughout the entirety of the documentary, like when Duong Van Mai Elliott spoke about her family on both sides of the conflict. Her father was an official for the french and her sister was married to a man who sympathized with those who wanted an independent Vietnam. Then, there is the My Lai massacre amongst

the other horrors commited by the U.S. Vietnam does not provide any uplifting moments, there is no relief, there is no happy ending to it either.

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