Mark Philip Bradley, Bernadotte E. Schmitt Distinguished Service Professor of International History and the College, reviews The Vietnam War, a documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, for the American Historical Review 124, no. 1 (Feb. 2019).
Photograph by Warren K. Leffler, Library of Congress
Bradley praised the filmmakers for telling “powerful individual stories that bring us into the quotidian dimensions of the American war in Vietnam,” but had serious reservations about how the film “elides the structural reasons for U.S. intervention in Vietnam and instead concentrates on the ways in which Americans experienced war. And despite an effort to help viewers understand Vietnamese dimensions of the war, it is mainly unsuccessful at evoking the complexities of Vietnam’s past.” The documentary’s length (eighteen hours), dated visual techniques, and “flat” interviews with Vietnamese left Bradley questioning “how might we as historians, and documentarians like Burns, find more compelling ways to tell Vietnam to our students?”