In early 1971, a group of Vietnam veterans (future senator and Secretary of State John Kerry among them) gave several days of public testimony about the atrocities they had witnessed or, in some cases, participated in during the war. The results were filmed by a collective that included future Oscar winner Barbara Kopple and released as the stunning, grueling documentary Winter Soldier.
My essay on Winter Soldier is at Eyes Wide Open:
… the film is essentially a parade of grainy, black-and-white footage of morose, shaggy-headed vets talking in confession-booth tones about laying waste to villages and butchering civilians; this is not a fun night out at the movies (but, then, neither is Shoah). In general, we as a country have preferred to have our Vietnam horror stories served up to us as part of thrilling wartime adventure tales, like Apocalypse Now and Platoon, or used as nihilistic punch lines in the morbidly inhumane Full Metal Jacket. And yet it remains well-nigh unconscionable that Winter Soldier, a burningly crucial missive delivered straight from the frontline, never become one of the standard texts on the Vietnam War and didn’t receive its first proper theatrical release until 2005.
Here’s the trailer: