The new documentary 'Sir! No Sir!' is certainly not the first picture about the Vietnam War but what makes this different from other films about Vietnam is that it focuses on the American troops who opposed the war and rebelled while on active duty.
Director David Zeiger himself organized anti-war soldiers in the early seventies. He started making films 15 years ago but wanted to make 'Sir! No Sir!' now because of America’s involvement in Iraq.
David Zeiger: "In the 90’s it was not a film I wanted to make. First of all it was a time when Vietnam was old news, very much old news, people felt Vietnamed out, they didn’t want to hear more war stories from Vietnam vets talking about how great they were. There wasn’t an audience for this and I knew how hard it would be because the story’s been buried so deeply. The Iraq war really opened the door to telling this story 35 years later."
Archival footage is combined with stories from veterans and anti-war activists like Jane Fonda. But what the film mainly claims to do is dispel what it calls the myth that the American public turned its collective back on soldiers when they came home from fighting in Vietnam. In fact, Zeiger says, at the time troops wore peace signs, refused to go into combat, and organized against the Vietnam war. He also says their mutiny, in effect, helped end the war.
David Zeiger: "It’s amazing to me, when I show this film, how it’s inevitable that someone in the audience, many people in the audience, will say 'I lived through that time. I don’t remember this at all. I don’t remember any of this happening.' And I believe very strongly that it’s not that people didn’t know about it at the time, but because over 35 years it’s been so completely buried."
In fact, Zeiger says that subsequent administrations wanted the American public to believe that Vietnam was a noble war fought bravely by American troops.
Manoush Zomorodi: "There are some who might say you have an agenda, that by making this film you’re trying to encourage soldiers now to stand up to the war in Iraq. What would you say to that?"
David Zeiger: "We’re not. The film does not in any way advocate refusing orders, but it does tell a story that I think can be inspiring to the, I believe, thousands of troops in Iraq who have questions about what they are doing there and whether they should be there."
Manoush Zomorodi: "Why do you think that there hasn’t been a similar anti-war backlash within American troops right now against Iraq?"
David Zeiger: "We’re still in the early phases of things in Iraq. The Iraq war’s been going on for three years; the Vietnam War had been going on for five years before there was a really major outpouring inside the military against the war. There was a lot of individual opposition in Vietnam in the first years and that’s exactly what's going on in Iraq now."
Critics appreciate this documentary’s history lesson and find its proud memories compelling.