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Hearts And Minds

By Peter Davis (1974)

Academy Award winning documentary about the Vietnam War

A courageous and startling film, Peter Davis’ landmark documentary Hearts and Minds unflinchingly confronts the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. Using a wealth of sources—from interviews to newsreels to documentary footage of the conflict at home and abroad—Davis constructs a powerfully affecting portrait of the disastrous effects of war. Explosive, persuasive, and shocking, Hearts and Minds is an overwhelming emotional experience and the controversial winner of the 1974 Academy Award™ for Best Documentary.

Runtime 1:51:59, click play to start


Hearts and Minds by Judith Crist

Peter Davis’ provocative Oscar-winning Hearts and Minds, released to the American public in 1975, is that rare documentary whose truths and relevance have been underlined and amplified by the passage of time. The title is derived from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s noting, as he escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War, that “The ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there.” But Davis’ triumph is that he is even more concerned with the hearts and minds of Americans. And though its time-set is the 10-year foreign war that cost some 60,000 American lives and caused internal upheaval and bitter aftermath, his work endures as a touchstone for our concept of Americanism, patriotism and personal and political principle. >>>

by George Herring

Hearts and Minds is the classic documentary antiwar film of the Vietnam era. It was released in 1974, one year after the United States withdrew its military forces from Vietnam, a year before North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front (NLF) forces toppled the American-sponsored South Vietnamese government, ending a war that in its various phases lasted nearly thirty years. The film captures as few other accounts do the range and depth of emotions aroused by the American war in Vietnam, and it explores the reasons why the United States intervened there, how it fought the war, and the pain it inflicted on the Vietnamese and eventually on itself as well. >>>

by Robert K. Brigham

One of the most important contributions Hearts and Minds makes to our national dialogue on the Vietnam war is it portrayal of ordinary Vietnamese. For years, the Vietnamese had been conspicuous by their absence in film and texts. When they did appear, it was usually as one-dimensional characters in a predetermined history. Strident military leaders from Hanoi spoke of the correctness of their path to revolution, while Saigon’s anti-Communists were always portrayed as corrupt and cowardly. Hearts and Minds changed all of that. When the film first appeared in 1974, its sympathetic and complicated treatment of average Vietnamese created a sensation. For years, the news media and policymakers had given Americans their only view into the lives of Vietnamese peasants, and that presentation was crude. Rarely did the media allow ordinary Vietnamese camera time to explain the war and its impact in their own terms. Because of the nature of the war, policymakers usually reduced the Vietnamese to targets in the war of attrition or unworthy allies, not human beings. During the early 1970s, scholarship on Vietnam tended to serve as an extension of the ideological debates surrounding the war itself, so it was also difficult for Americans to read the Vietnamese from these sources. No longer satisfied with existing stereotypes, therefore, Peter Davis offered a new look at America’s enemies and allies in Vietnam. That new look was sophisticated in its treatment of the human dimensions of war and the high cost in blood and treasure that all sides paid in Vietnam. >>>

by Ngo Vinh Long

The American war in Vietnam was officially divided into two halves: The military war and “The Other War: The War to Win Hearts and Minds of the People,” which gives this documentary its title.

Whereas the aim of the military war was to kill large numbers of the enemy through “search-and-destroy operations,” the goal of the War to Win Hearts and Minds (as it was colloquially known) was to force villagers to move into areas controlled by the South Vietnamese government, depriving the National Liberation Front (NLF) of popular support. In congressional testimony in January 1966, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara introduced evidence on the success of air and artillery attacks, including “the most devastating and frightening” B-52 raids, in forcing the villagers “to move where they will be safe from such attacks…regardless of their attitude to the GVN [Government of the Republic of Vietnam].” This, McNamara continued, not only disrupted Viet Cong guerrillas’ activities but also threatened “a major deterioration of their economic base.” McNamara later explained that it “has been our task all along” to “root out the VC infrastructure and establish the GVN presence.” In the hope that hunger would force the rural population to stop supporting the NLF and move over to the U.S.- and Saigon-controlled areas, by the end of 1966 more than half of the chemicals sprayed were admittedly directed at crops. In February 1967, Donald Hornig, President Johnson’s chief scientific advisor, explained to a group of scientists that “the anticrop program was aimed chiefly at moving the people.” >>>

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