I took a course last Fall on the history of Vietnam. I took a course this Spring on the history of the Netherlands. Both countries have fought powers far larger and far more powerful and usual won. Both countries have lived under the thumb of the French. So it should have come as no surprise to me that while looking at the films of the very political Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens, I found this film. In the late 1960’s Ivens and his French wife went to a Vietnamese village around the 17th parallel and made a documentary.
During the film we see the destruction caused by American bombs and “torpedoes”. We get to hear the Vietnamese give the United States more credit than it deserves by referring to them as imperialists and pirates. What do you expect, the whole history of Vietnam has largely been one of resistance against imperialist powers. It’s what they were familiar with. We see people training to destroy tanks, dig underground chambers, and train to fight. But what is really interesting is the strength of their community. Every aspect of their lives has been geared towards being ready to fight the Americans if they come by land, sea, or air. The organization and resilience is amazing.
It can be a tough film to watch at times, but I have never seen this kind stuff anywhere else and it’s historical importance is unquestionable.
I took a bunch of screenshots of this film. I have including some of the best ones below. I have excluded some that I didn’t feel appropriate posting.
They actually do shoot down American planes using anti-aircraft guns.
Filling in bomb craters is a community event. They then use the reclaimed land for farming.
One of my favorite lines from the film.
Of course they destroy the radios. I wonder why…
A theatrical production to bring the community together.
The woman pulls on a rope to raise all four children whose cribs are bound together. The next generation of resistance fighters.
A little training
The kids are playing take the American prisoner. The biggest kid always plays the American.
This kid was a little overanxious.
They interview this kid who used to live in the South where his mother was killed. He went North and now lives with his “soldier uncles” as he puts it.
They actually captured this American pilot. They don’t show his execution, but it’s made clear that they killed him.
The film ends with this freeze frame of kids being taught some English phrases necessary for taking an American as a prisoner.