Critically acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (The Civil War, Jazz, The War, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, etc.) is currently in the middle of airing his newest project, The Vietnam War, on PBS. Burns’ newest venture into history is a ten episode series that goes into the backstory, history and real-life accounts of a war that so many Americans still don’t fully understand.
The series is already five episodes in, with the next one airing on Sept. 24. The Vietnam War has been receiving great critical acclaim from both critics and from veterans who lived through the experience.
There’s also a version of Burns’ documentary that’s cut into a film — one that premiered at the Art Prize Film Festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The film is roughly 60 minutes long (no easy task given the series will clock in over 10 hours) and takes experts from various episodes. After the Art Prize screening of the film, a few Vietnam War veterans and others with personal ties to the war were invited on stage to speak — including Medal of Honor winner James McCloughan, a man who willing risked his own life by entering dangerous areas in order to save wounded soldiers. He rescued 10 people, even while receiving his own injuries caused by shrapnel from a rock-propelled grenade.
“I think the documentary so far is excellently done,” said John Varine, a Vietnam War veteran who is now 74 years old, when giving an interview with triblive. “It gives a very balanced picture of the whole situation from many different perspectives. Anybody who wants to know more about that whole period in our history should watch it.”
Burns’ documentary, both the series and the film, has had quite an effect on veterans. Every week, before the new episode airs on PBS, there’s a warning saying that it could be traumatizing to veterans. Realistic and difficult as it may be, Burns’ tries to help us all understand and begin to process this horrific event.
Watch the trailer for The Vietnam War here and check it out on PBS every night this week, starting Sept. 24. And keep your eyes out for the film version as well, for those who don’t have the time to watch all ten episodes, which will likely be released after the show has finished airing.