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The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick DVD
DVD | Box Set
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The Vietnam War, an immersive ten-part, eighteen hour documentary film series directed by acclaimed filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, tells the epic story of one of the most divisive, consequential and misunderstood events in American history, as it has never before been told on film.
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I was 17 when I landed in Vietnam. I spent a miserable year there, and much of my life getting over it. This helped with some closure for me. I thought it was well done. Don't know how much more of it I will want to see, but so far, I'm impressed. Considerably better than the one sided rehash of old war footage.
This will actually promote healing and that alone makes it valuable.
After the success of the in depth documentary on The Civil War and World War II, Burns and his “team” decided to cover the Vietnam War. This series is airing now on consecutive nights (sort of “binge watching”) with each episode playing twice the same night. Then in October It will air on Tuesdays (I think it’s Tuesdays) each week. Since you will want to watch the series in order, it is really more convenient to get the full set of 10 discs so you can watch when you want. You will want to spread it out a little and I can recommend that you not watch it just before bedtime.
I’ve watched four episodes so far and I expect the restwill be of the same quality; hence this review now. (I will be going on vacation soon so I won’t get through it all for a month or so.
Like the other lengthy docs with Burns’ name on it, the real “work” to create this goes to his “producing partner” Lynn Novick. It is she who did the majority of the interviews and chose which questions to ask. Unlike the World War II series, and definitely the Civil War one, there are many surviving soldiers on both sides of the combat still alive to be interviewed. Burns’ concept was to not “take sides” but to “document”. So we not only hear from the “right” and the “left” in the UIS but from both the “North” and the “South” Vietnamese soldiers and politicians. All sides are heard and some 40 years later are put into perspective. I can’t remember the exact number but I think Novick chose 40 interviewees to be included. These are pieced together with news footage and reporting and a narrative by actor/activist Peter Coyote, who is one of Burns’ go-to narrators.
The set includes a bonus – a “Making of” featurette that lasts just under 40-minutes. It appears on Disc One and – unlike other “making of” featurettes, you can watch this either before starting the series or at the end of any episode. It’s not like ones that carry “spoilers”. We all know how it ends.
I have not seen the broadcast episodes so I can’t say if they are edited in any way. There is a “caution” at the beginning of each episode – obviously for the graphic violence” shown. There is graphic language and – on the home video versions they are not “bleeped”. I did see an on air “promo” for the series on PBS and the expletives were “bleeped”. Maybe someone who watched full episodes on TV can confirm if “bleeps” are there.
It’s Burns’ name that gets the “funding” for these documentaries, so I give him credit there. But in the bonus featurette, you’ll see the team that actually got it done.
I’m not a fan of Burns’ music documentaries like his “Jazz” series – as I found them one-sided. He has one on Country Music scheduled for 2019 or 2020 and I hope it is more balanced. But there is never going to be another documentary of this depth (and length!) so I’m happy to say that this one is worth watching. And it should be shown in every high school so the Millennials and later will “understand” what can (and did happen) to divide a country and be responsible to tens of thousands of human lives.
Additional comments (posted 9/20/17). The DVDs are are packed in two cases of 5 DVDs (or BDs) each and then in a slipcase. I hadn't noted that there are some "bonus interviews": added to Disc 10. I'm afraid I haven't watched those yet. But I did watch the "Making of" featurette on Disc One. Also there are subtitles andin both English and Spanish and Spanish audio option. (Of course, there are English Subtitles for the interviewees who speak in Vietnamese.)
I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.