December 19, 2006

Sir! No Sir!

Reviewer: Craig Phillips
Rating (out of 5): ****

David Zieger's Sir! No Sir! is not only a well-crafted documentary, but certainly timely: it was released with My Lai once again on our (hearts and) minds, given revelations from Iraq on the "November massacre" and as more and more members of the American military come forth to question our motives and tactics in Iraq.

Sir! No Sir! is one of the best documentaries about American protest movements since Mark Kitchell's Berkeley in the Sixties. Just when you think you've heard every last bit, every possible anecdote about Vietnam, comes this film to serve as a reminder that the story of the soldiers movement to end the war has up until now been a buried one. As with Berkeley, the film uses a mix of striking archival footage, modern interviews, newscasts, and newspaper stories - backed, of course, by music from the period - to get out this story (and its many subplots - the film does go on perhaps ten minutes too long).

While the presence of Jane Fonda as one of the interviewees - while wholly appropriate - is a little jarring when compared to the previously anonymous soldiers who bravely risked their futures by speaking out while in the service of the military, but Fonda's interview clips are engaging, and the footage of her, Donald Sutherland, and other members of the sort of anti-Bob Hope traveling troupe of actors and musicians who entertained the demoralized troops is priceless. Also fascinating is the footage of the GI resistance cafes that sprung up near Army bases, such as the Oleo Strut in Killeen, Texas.

All in all, Sir! No Sir! is not only timely, it goes a long way to correct some misconceptions about the make-up of the Vietnam protest movement.

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Posted by cphillips at December 19, 2006 1:18 PM
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