Hot Docs Monday

Vietnam: Ghosts of War (Canada, Director: Micheael Maclear) — Michael Maclear is an institution in Canadian broadcasting. Not only was he the first Western journalist to report from North Vietnam during the war (even witnessing Ho Chi Minh’s funeral), he was the producer of the only serious attempt to document the entire history of the Vietnam conflict (the 1980 miniseries The Ten Thousand Day War). In this film, Maclear travels back thirty years later, to a Vietnam at peace. The thesis of the film is that superpowers (first, France and then the US) misread the situation in Vietnam and that they continue to do the same thing today in the Iraq war. The film points out how “arrogance and ignorance” make it very easy to start a war and very difficult to end one. Maclear has a very idiosyncratic style and it didn’t always work for me (for instance, the film doesn’t follow a predictable narrative arc and felt about half an hour too long), but I appreciated the personal viewpoint and the way he combined original footage from the 60s and 70s with new stuff shot just this past year. (8/10)

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