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The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam (1965)

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A documentary on the war in South Vietnam shot entirely on location. There is no narration and no use of archive footage. The participants speak for themselves. The filmmakers spend time ... See full summary »


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Title: The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam (1965)

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Credited cast:
Bernard Fall ...
Special Commentary
Thai Nguyen ...
Special Commentary


A documentary on the war in South Vietnam shot entirely on location. There is no narration and no use of archive footage. The participants speak for themselves. The filmmakers spend time with units from many services: army, tanks, marines, ARVN, air cavalry. They accompany an air force napalm and strafing attack on a Viet Cong bunker complex. There are many scenes both of Saigon streets and of peasant village life. Soldiers speak of their experiences and their mission to fight Communism in Vietnam. One American informant says that the Vietnamese peasant is not interested in ideology, but in social justice, a piece of land, fair taxation, and to be left alone. Some interviews are used as voice-over. Participants, American and Vietnamese, are very natural, with little or no posturing for the camera. There are scenes of dead Viet Cong, and one showing a VC suspect being drowned to aid interrogation. Written by David Badger

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Plot Keywords:

vietnam | army | torture | See All (3) »


Documentary | War





Release Date:

5 December 1965 (Canada)  »

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Featured in Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

war is insanity
6 December 2006 | by (guelph, canada) – See all my reviews

I just saw this (short) documentary about the Vietnam war and I kept thinking of parallels to today. One thing that always strikes me about old documentaries is how eloquent people are, even the so called "grunts" can string a sentence together better than most people today. But anyway, that's a whole other topic.

This is a very good look at Vietnam from all perspectives, and highlights aspects that rarely get discussed, namely the effects on the average peasant, who really has no political affiliation or goals other than to plant his rice and till his fields. There are interviews with clearly well intentioned but delusional soldiers, trying to "stop communism before it comes to us". Gee, sound familiar? Makes me think about the whole terrorism threat just substitute communism for terrorism, also makes me think that the only thing these war mongerers learned from Vietnam was that you have to make the threat seem more reel and you have to control the media. But here they are in Iraq doing the exact same thing, stuck in a civil war trying to use a massive military to fight guerilla warfare. Sadly, this lesson they did not seem to learn, you CANNOT fight such a war. You will lose, it's only a matter of time.

Anyway, this movie is a very plain look at what has been described as the "banality of war". We have been so conditioned with years of war films that when real war is presented it seems too horrible, yet so plain, there's no fanfare no dramatic music, just sad people dying. The scene with the pilot gleefully talking about napalming what he thinks are VC, but who are mostly like just villagers is truly disturbing. In any other circumstance this pilot would be considered pathological and a murderer, yet here he is just doing is job and he's quite happy to do it. He will go home to his wife and kids and live a normal life.

But in the end it's all insane, yet we convince ourselves otherwise. We convince ourselves that we are doing good, we are doing justice, but it's all death, all murder, you cannot hide from that.

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