Sunday, July 12, 2020

DVDebut for Tom Herman's look at a hugely important part of U.S. journalism and history: DATELINE--SAIGON

For those of you around my age who came into adulthood (and then beyond) protesting the Vietnam War, here comes a terrific, not-so-new (2016) documentary -- DATELINE--SAIGON -- that will bring back memories of a time, a rotten and unnecessary war, and a group of journalists/photographers whose necessary and difficult work helped bring the truth of that war to the public eye and mind.

Much of what is covered by this fine documentary -- written and directed by Thomas D. Herman (shown at left) --  will be familiar to those who followed U.S. involvement in Vietnam from its inception on through our country's sleazy abandonment of the stupidly created and wretchedly run South Vietnam, once this war had been lost. (Anyone who tells you the outcome was some sort of "tie" is either lying or impaired.)

Full of fabulous tales and anecdotes (including some of the early mistakes made by these fledgling reporters) and featuring both archival footage of and more current interviews with the four leading journalists who covered the war -- Malcolm Browne, Peter Arnett, Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam plus that ace photographer Horst Faas -- the documentary is so packed with history and intelligent information that is seems particularly appropriate all over again, now, in our time of Donald Trump and his "alternative facts."

These five fellows (that's, left to right, Halberstam, Browne and Sheehan, above, and photographer Faas, below) offered so much more than the typical parroting-the-administration "take" on how the war was going that they pretty much led the USA from oblivious complacency into the kind of increasing activism that would eventually derail -- thanks in good part to television's finally broadcasting the war into the living rooms of America -- the lying Kennedy/Johnson administration and its "best and brightest" mechanics.

The movie is particularly accomplished in the way it handles the story of South Vietnam, the Diem regime, the infamous Madame Nhu (below, right) and the Buddhist uprising that simultaneously helped derail the South politically, even as the North continued to win the war.

For the younger generation that does not know as much about Vietnam as we older folk, I can't imagine a better history lesson than this film. Nor a better example of the kind of journalism we need now, more than perhaps we ever have before.

From First Run Features and lasting 96 minutes, Dateline--Saigon has its home video debut this coming Tuesday, July 14, via DVD and VOD. Click here for more information.

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