This post is from one of my favorite bloggers, Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist.
With all the press (the positive reviews and also some fascinating critical views) about the Ken Burns and Lynn Novick series on Vietnam, Peter Davis’ brilliant 1974 documentary seems to have been forgotten–once again. When the 1983 PBS series Vietnam: A Television History came out, I was in college majoring in journalism. I was fascinated by the miniseries based on Stanley Karnow’s tome. My mentor, William A. Dorman, a professor of journalism at CSUS, told me to skip the book and the miniseries and watch “Hearts and Minds.”
In a fraction of running time of the 1983 PBS series, I found “Hearts and Minds” a much better presentation of the U.S. involvement in the war. It asks the hard questions. The comparison of the 1983 series with “Hearts and Minds” seems very familiar when reading the criticisms of the Burns/Novick work visa vis the 1974 Davis film. In trying to be fair and balanced the Burns/Novick series misses the mark when it comes to the U.S.’ costly Cold War doctrine and its toll on Third World countries like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Full disclosure here: I have not seen the Burns/Novick work yet. Like all TV series I view, I’ll binge watch all the episodes over a few nights some time in the future.
Here is the Davis film on Vimeo.com. I believe it is also available on Amazon Prime for a few dollars.