Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 05, 2020 4:06 pm 
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The times they were a-changin': how Vietnam War resistance became a huge national movement

The resistance to the US's war in Vietnam is covered in a new film by Judith Erlich that shows how central it was to all the best of what the "Sixties" (which includes the early Seventies) stood for. Surprisingly, this is the first documentary to cover the young men who said no to the draft on which the war and its escalation by Presidents Lyndon Johnson, and more deviously, Richard Nixon, depended to feed its Army. This moving film, with recent testimony by many resisters, then 18, now 70, has a wealth of historical footage of draft card burnings, speeches, demonstrations, and current or recent interviews with such as David Harris and Joan Baez, and the late Tod Friend (who died in 2016), Bill Garaway, David Harris, Christopher Colorado Jones (who organized a reunion of 70 draft resisters including Baez and Harris that was the beginning of this film, died in 2027), Randy Kehler, Steve Ladd, Joe Maizlish, Jay Alan Moss, Mark Rudd, Cleveland Sellers, Jr., Lee Swenson, and Bob Zaugh. Thanks to all of them!

This movement was largely white, though a couple of black reisters are heard from. They note that when they went to jail, most of the other prisoners were black. A very high percentage of the American soldiers in Vietnam were also black. This movement was inspired by Black America’s nonviolent equal rights crusade. We see here how when Reverend King joined the anti Vietnam War movement, he did so in lots more ways than the now famous Riverside Church speech. He and Muhammad Ali provided a bridge, and we hear here Ali's vivid and colorful articulation of the illogic of a black man being sent to kill non-white people who never did him any harm for a country where he did not have his full rights as a man.

This film encompasses so many aspects of the sixties and seventies, joining the civil rights movement with the antiwar movement. It notes at the end that the activism that takes to the streets today owes itself to the giant movement that developed in the early seventies.

We hear White House tapes of Nixon and Kissinger considering bombing the dikes or using nuclear weapons, while the country was calling more and more for an end to the war.
The resisters, as Ellsberg says hoped for a moral decision to do that, and it didn't happen. Nixon ended the war because he saw it couldn't be won. When we see how fast he withdrew the troops, we remember Iraq, and the difference is stunning. The anti-invasion demonstrations of 2003 where the biggest yet - yet Iraq and Afghanistan are long, ugly affairs. The Draft was ended in 1973, and has never been reinstated. Ironically, that institution was a key source of this movement that's not as strong today, simply because fewer families are affected by America's militarism than in the days of the Draft. We can look with nostalgia at a time when the issue was clear and the resistance was united.

Judith Ehrlich has made films about wear resisters her specialty. She co-produced and co-directed the Oscar, Emmy, IDA Award- nominated and Peabody Award winner, The Most Dangerous Man in America, Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Ehrlich also co-produced and co-directed the award-winning documentary, The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It (about WWII resisters). She is the only filmmaker to twice win both major history film awards in the US. Ehrlich has made numerous other award-winning educational films following a career as a teacher and school principal.

The Boys Who Said No, 94 mins., is an opening night special eelection for the Mill Valley Film Festival (Oct. 8-18, 2020).


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