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Winter Soldier (1972)

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For three days in 1971, former US soldiers who were in Vietnam testify in Detroit about their war experiences. Nearly 30 speak, describing atrocities personally committed or witnessed, ... See full summary »

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Storyline

For three days in 1971, former US soldiers who were in Vietnam testify in Detroit about their war experiences. Nearly 30 speak, describing atrocities personally committed or witnessed, telling of inaccurate body counts, and recounting the process of destroying a village. The atrocities are casual, seem routine, and are sanctioned or committed by officers. Images from the war illustrate the testimony; there's a side discussion among veterans about racism and a couple of interviews about the soldiers' self-realization. The testimony appears in the US Congressional Record on April 6 and 7, 1971. A "winter soldier" contrasts with Paine's "summer soldier and sunshine patriot." Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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19 June 2010 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Stratiotes tou heimona  »

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Historic first public testimony on gratuitous violence perpetrated by US troops and mercenaries in Vietnam
26 December 2005 | by (Portland, Oregon, United States) – See all my reviews

This film is a documentary shot at a Howard Johnson motel in Detroit over 3 days, in February, 1971, when 125 Vietnam military veterans gathered to offer personal testimony about atrocities and gratuitous violence they had witnessed or participated in during military service in Vietnam, i.e., violent acts by U.S. servicemen and U.S.-paid civilian mercenaries during the Vietnam conflict. The gathering was called the "Winter Soldier Investigation" and was the first such public testimony ever to have occurred in connection with the Vietnam war.

As one critic noted at the time, the film is more a document than a documentary. Technically it is dull: for the most part a single stationary camera records one speaker after another, C-SPAN style. But the stories here are told with chilling detail and emotion, or, equally moving, lack of emotion, after the fashion of many former combatants who suffer from PTSD and avoid re-experiencing the overwhelming feelings that their trauma mobilized originally, through suppression or dissociation from awareness. Among many others, there is a brief scene depicting a young John Kerry at the meeting.

The film was later shown at a Congressional hearing in 1972. It has never received wide distribution in the ensuing decades. Yet there is obvious resonance of the stories told here with concerns today about state-sponsored torture (Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib) and gratuitous killing and wounding of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The directing group (the "collective") was made up of 18 young documentarists based in New York City, including Barbara Kopple. This was a co-production of the Winter Film Collective and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. My ratings: cinema values: 5/10 (C); significance of content: 8/10 (B+). (Seen on 11/15/05). If you'd like to read more of my reviews, send me a message for directions to my websites.


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