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Should Burns/Novick's "The Vietnam War" Have Won An Emmy?
By Joe Miller
I taught two regular courses on the war at the University of Illinois each spring from 1989 to my retirement in 2013: "Politics of the Vietnam War" and "Vietnam at the Movies." I was always looking for the "best" documentaries to use in those classes to show the real complexities of the war and raise questions in the students' minds. Beginning with the notion that with nearly three million Vietnam veterans, there were probably three million different takes on the war, I never expected to find the "perfect" film. I always thought Peter Davis's "Hearts and Minds" was among the "best," but there was also the Karnow-based series, "Vietnam War: A Television History."
Though there are certainly differences of opinion on this, I feel that the Burns/Novick documentary raised the bar, even with its flaws and omissions. There is not (and never will be) a "perfect" documentary that reflects the total REALITY of our war. If it had won an Emmy, I would have been pleased. It would have served to legitimize just one more tool to teach about the war and open greater discussion. This is especially the case since the filmmakers have included important input from the Vietnamese themselves.
Would those who wished to deny an Emmy for this documentary have fought against Davis's "Hearts and Minds" because it won an Oscar in 1975? What is the point?
Joe Miller is a Navy veteran, 1961-68. Naval Security Group, 1961-64. USS Ticonderoga (CVA14), 1964-66. HELTRARON 8, 1966-68. He is a VVAW National Board Member.