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Hearts and Minds by Davis, Peter

In the controversial Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis impressively illustrates the excesses and consequences of the Vietnam War. He does this by means of interviews with American politicians, veterans and draft dodgers, as well as Vietnamese who experienced the war firsthand. The revealing statements made and the images shown present a clear message. The U.S. did not succeed in winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. Instead, U.S. efforts in Vietnam resulted in the exact opposite.

Historical Relevance
When the French withdrew from Vietnam, then called Indochina, U.S. forces moved to fill the power vacuum. Motivated by a strong fear of the spread of communism, the U.S. initially began by sending 'military advisors', and ended up fighting a bloody war against North Vietnam and communist partisans in South Vietnam. After heavy bombings and chemical weapons attacks, President Nixon ultimately withdrew U.S. forces from the conflict. North and South Vietnam were united under the flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Political Relevance
The events in Vietnam played out against the backdrop of the Cold War; a forty year long conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. The superpowers attempted to influence conflicts in various parts of the developing world. U.S. policy was driven by the domino theory, which dictated that if one country in a given region became communist, other countries in the region would also fall prey to communism. The theory was used to justify intervention in several regions around the world, as was the case in Vietnam.

Social Relevance
In addition to the political aspect, the film also sheds light on the consequences for the people involved. Veterans openly talk about the excitement they felt while bombing villages and the feelings of guilt and disgust afterwards. In the mean time, images and interviews are shown to illustrate the Vietnamese suffering. Although much of the attention goes out to their grievances, it is clear that the war and it's aftermath caused victoms on both sides of the conflict.

Author, producer and filmmaker Peter Davis caused considerable controversy in the United States with his production. Some critics viewed the film as anti-war propaganda, while others regarded it as one of the best documentary films ever made. Michael Moore has said that Hearts and Minds inspired him to become a documentary maker. Despite (or perhaps because of) the controversy, Davis won the Oscar for Best Feature Documentary in 1975.

Davis, Peter
Copyright Holder
BBS productions (Hearts and Minds)
112 min.
Year of release

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