June 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Vietnam War | SLJ DVD Review

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redstarThe Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns & Lynn Novick. 18 hrs. PBS. 2017. $99.99. ISBN 9781531701734. Blu-ray $129.99. UPC 0841887033404. Educator’s edition $129.99. ISBN unavail.

Gr 9 Up –Filmmakers Burns and Novick invested 10 years in making this documentary series, which clocks in at over 18 hours, including extras. It begins with a sweeping look at Vietnam’s history and the early causes of the conflict and ends with episode 10, “The Weight of Memory,” covering the year 1973 and onward. Each roughly 100-minute segment combines video footage, stills, and sincere, thoughtful interviews with U.S. military personnel, Viet Cong soldiers, families, news reporters, government officials, and many others. Those interviewed represent many sides, from still-grieving parents to Viet Cong fighters. Every chapter contains significant, harrowing footage and photos of combat, dead bodies, and other disturbing images. Along with detailed coverage of battles and strategy, stateside events are woven into the narrative, including anti-war protests, White House meetings, and civil rights demonstrations. Classic rock songs blare in some scenes, while poignant, original compositions enhance others. Viewers are likely to be deeply moved by the powerful narration, interviews, and imagery. The challenge for most teachers will be deciding which of the many excellent portions will fit into allotted classroom time. An educator’s edition is available that is edited for profanity (the broadcast version contains occasional four-letter words) and contains lesson plans correlated to selected video clips that examine “key military, political and cultural events, as well as the diverse human experiences” of the war and its time. VERDICT Excellent, detailed, and even-handed coverage for mature viewers.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

This review was published in the School Library Journal November 2017 issue.

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