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Emile de Antonio
Harry S. Ashmore,
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This film recounts the history and attitudes of the opposing sides of the Vietnam War using archival news footage as well as its own film and interviews. A key theme is how attitudes of American racism and self-righteous militarism helped create and prolong this bloody conflict. The film also endeavors to give voice to the Vietnamese people themselves as to how the war has affected them and their reasons why they fight the United States and other western powers while showing the basic humanity of the people that US propaganda tried to dismiss. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
During his Oscar acceptance speech producer Bert Schneider read a letter from the head of the Viet Cong lauding his film. Bob Hope prompted Oscar host Frank Sinatra to disclaim any political statements that had been made during the show. See more »
Occasionally Hearts and Minds comes over as too obvious and aggressive, as in the shockingly unflattering edits of glib, racist Americans piled one on top of another and the literal link the director draws between football and war. (Then again, I'm 31 years old and just don't know how open such racism was then, but the cuts from bigot to bigot are just brutal and perhaps it's wishful thinking on my part to assume that the director was unfair.) Also, it seems the communist NLF did no wrong that was worth putting in the film. Instead the director concentrated on eloquent nationalist sentiments. I happen to agree entirely with the assessment of the war shown in the film, but even with my sympathies it's hard not to notice that this film that concentrates so brilliantly on the suffering of real people before an evil policy focuses almost solely on the crimes of the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies. But maybe that was someone else's film to make and, at that moment in time, the director probably felt that there was enough coverage of NLF as just plain evil people. It's a small gripe about such a mammoth film. Documentary is not Truth, no retelling of an event ever is. Hearts and Minds is an unapologetically partisan film and is so much the better for being honest about it.
I'm `oriental' myself. Well, `oriental' enough that I know all those slurs and dismissive comments would have applied to my family and me. It was absolutely eerie for me to see people from Gen. Westmorland down to Americans watching parades on Main St. who had nothing but contempt for the people that to this day many swear the US was trying to save.
I'm not sure how many times I've ever seen the victim of bombing express himself outside of this film and that's sad. How many people were bombed in the last century? Millions certainly. In the US we've become so accustomed to hearing that our foreign policy requires almost annual bombings somewhere on earth. Particularly during the Clinton years, punishing through air strikes became so routine that it barely merited news coverage. These attacks may not be as indiscriminate as they used to be, but how many people in our history did that one anguished man speak for as he wept about his family and his home?
The sheer carnage on display in Hearts and Minds made the whole war film genre seem perversely sentimental to me. It's seldom helpful to hold up fiction to docu-footage, but, in this case, any number of moments from Hearts and Minds makes otherwise impressive films like Apocalypse Now! and Platoon seem like acts of bad taste.
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