THOUGH THE VIETNAM WAR ended in 1975, references to it have been creeping back into the vernacular as the war in Iraq continues to play out. As such, the release of "Sir! No Sir!" is not only a look into a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War but also a film that some may argue is a harbinger of things to come in this era.
The documentary, which screens Monday at the Black Cat, uses archival footage, interviews and paraphernalia from the era to tell the story of the soldiers who protested the Vietnam War. Three years in the making, director, producer and writer David Zeiger said production started right after the U.S. invaded Iraq. "This story of 35 years ago suddenly mattered," Zeiger said. "I knew it would have an impact."
Creating the film took a lot of research, especially finding and interviewing those involved in the movement. "A lot [of the people] I knew of, if I didn't know them personally," Zeiger said on the numerous veterans and others interviewed in the film. "We put ads in publications, on the Web, where a lot of them came from. They finally had the chance to tell their story."
For Zeiger, this story is not only interesting from a historical standpoint but also from a personal one, as he went to Texas in 1969 to be a part of that movement. "That was the first time I stepped foot in Texas," he said. "I was there as a civilian and I got involved supporting the GI in Killeen, Texas, where I worked at a GI coffee house — Oleo Strut, which is featured in the film." He worked in Killeen, which is next to Fort Hood, for two years, organizing demonstrations and taking training in military law.
While the film was released in 2005 (and it played at both E Street Cinema and Busboys and Poets last year), it has since garnered substantial critical acclaim, including nominations and awards from the Los Angeles Film Festival, Independent Spirit Awards, International Documentary Association and Hamptons International Film Festival. "I'm a filmmaker, not a political activist — my intent was to tell this as a compelling story in its own right. We wanted to cross beyond the activist community and I'm very grateful, very glad it happened," Zeiger said.
And while the film is finished, Zeiger stressed that the story of the GI resistance doesn't end there. "The main thing we're focusing on now is the Web site [sirnosir.com]. We've already gathered a number of documents, GI underground newspapers, leaflets," all of which are available at the site's online "library." The movie itself is also available on DVD in two versions — the theatrical release and the director's edition, which Zeiger describes as "essentially a second film. It's the complete [original] film, but in a much bigger way," as the director's edition contains an additional hour and a half of archival footage, including newsreels and interviews.
» Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; 9 p.m., $5; 202-667-7960. (U St.-Cardozo)