Directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick talk about their PBS documentary series, The Vietnam War. The interview is interspersed with clips from the series.
The directors were interviewed by Cokie Roberts at the William G. McGowan Theater, Washington, DC, October 17, 2017. Watch the video here:
The ten-part, 18-hour documentary film series has been shown on PBS in the US, and BBC in the UK. It has taken ten years to make, and features testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.
It also explores the roots of the conflict. As Burns remarks:
“We feel that American involvement could even go back to 1919 when Ho Chi Minh tried to reach out to Woodrow Wilson.
“But for all intents and purposes, when the OSS [predecessor of the CIA] dropped in, early 1945, trying to find groups that would help them fight the Japanese, they hooked up with Ho Chi Minh and possibly saved his life… certainly armed the Viet Minh – the revolutionary army that he started. When he declared Vietnamese Independence in Baden Square he quoted Thomas Jefferson and OSS officers are near him.
“At that point in early September 1945 it could have gone a different way that it went.”
On September 2, 1945, Ho declared Vietnam an independent nation. His speech began with this Jefferson quote:
“All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
John Kerry’s statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971, in which he criticized the Vietnam War.