Available for the first time on DVD, FTA is a riveting slice of the Vietnam anti-war movement, following Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherlands Free The Army Tour of U.S. Army bases in 1971.
is a now-fascinating 1972 documentary capturing actors Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland in a then-infamous traveling troupe of political theatre protesting both the Vietnam war and the presence of American military bases in Okinawa, the Philippines, Japan, and elsewhere along the Pacific Rim. A kind of anti-USO show, "FTA" (i.e., "F**K the Army") featured Fonda, Sutherland, folk musician Len Chandler, singer-songwriters Holly Near and Rita Martinson, and comedian Paul Mooney in a sketch-and-tune performance for dissident soldiers and sailors. The show itself doesn't leap out as particularly dynamic all these decades later, but it's the context that matters. Early on, Sutherland describes an assault by U.S. forces on a Vietnamese village as if he were calling a baseball game--a macabre but effective satire that rouses the audience. Fonda participates in a sketch about the way families of officers are treated far better by the American government than the families of ordinary grunts. Much of the film is dedicated to the comments and testimony of servicemen who had seen and done what most of us will never know about Vietnam. Black soldiers define and describe the role of racism in the war, and much is said about racist policies toward the native peoples of the countries where American bases were allegedly so unwelcome. Throughout, Fonda takes any opportunity to declare, in the most general terms, that U.S. troops don’t want to be in whatever country "FTA" is visiting, but again that kind of hyperbole was a then-part of everyone's life and times. --Tom Keogh