They say that it's the winners who get to write the history books, but in the multitude of conflicts over the VietNam war there's a lot of wiggle room as to who won what. David Zieger's documentary about the little known GI peace movement in the US and in VietNam attempts to clarify some of what happened, while also clearing up some misconceptions. Using a broad mix of archive film and contemporary interviews gathered over five years, he chronicles how growing anti-war awareness among people serving in the military led to protests, court martials and half a million reported AWOLs.
One of the great strengths of the film is how it shows the impact of film on men and women. We hear from people involved in the boycott of a jewelry which pressed soldiers to buy rings for their mothers to leave as a keepsake in case they didn't come back. We also hear from Jane Fonda about the work she did with the anti-war FTA show, which was meant as a counter to Bob Hope's USO pageants. Fonda's involvement in the anti-war movement has, for many people, been boiled down to the iconic photograph of her sitting on a Viet Cong anti-aircraft gun, and so it is refreshingly intriguing to hear her talk about the larger issues at play.
Perhaps most intriguing is the investigation into the much told stories of the VietNam vets being spat at at airports on their return from combat. The filmmakers interviewed a researcher who looked into the subject at length, and found no conclusive evidence it ever happened. Again an iconic moment seems to almost evaporate, and perhaps we get closer to the complexities of what really happened three decades ago.