The Congressional Record from April 6-7, 1971, contains testimony taken in Detroit from Vietnam veterans. That testimony is the subject of “Winter Soldier,” a documentary that will get a one-week showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago and in more than 20 theaters across the U.S.
Vietnam Veterans Against the War organized the movie and testimony. That group and the testimony we hear helped to focus the antiwar movement and shift public opinion to bring down the presidency of Richard Nixon in 1975.
The testimony broke a long and savage policy of soldiers coming home and observing silence. The articulation of the horrors and monstrous acts seen and committed by those testifying is what one GI says is “standard operating procedure by soldiers in Vietnam.” That testimony also opens up a way to heal some very deep hurts, some of which we still see on our streets. Some soldiers now return annually to Vietnam to work on reconstruction projects.
Shot mainly in black and white, and mostly close up, the documentary shows young men with long 1970s hair, a vivid contrast to the picture we see when they were in Vietnam. You feel just how hard it is to tell these stories for the first time.
There is heartbreak when you see these young men 33 years later, because you are acutely aware of the lessons that should have been learned but were not. Their stories are hauntingly similar to those of more recent veterans from the two Gulf wars. Information about soldier suicides, for example, is only now trickling out in a White House-controlled media blackout about the war in Iraq and its effects.
With demands that the current 139,000 troops in Iraq come home and take the $1 billion per week that the government spends on the war to spend it on affordable housing, schools and health centers, “Winter Soldier” should be required viewing in every public school in a nation that seems to be at war with itself.
Winter Soldier will be playing at the following locations:
Sept. 22-25, Newark Film Festival, Newark, Del.; Sept. 29-Oct. 5, Downtown Media Center, Orlando, Fla.; Sept. 30-Oct. 6, Real Art Ways, Hartford, Conn.; Sept. 30-Oct. 6, Triplex Cinema, Great Barrington, Mass.; Oct. 4-6, Cornell Cinema, Ithaca, N.Y.; Oct. 14-20, Starz Film Center/
Denver Film Society, Denver; Oct. 21-27, Key Cinemas, Indianapolis; Oct. 22, Juniata College, Huntingdon, Pa.; Oct. 30, Virginia Film Festival, Charlottesville, Va.; Nov. 3-12, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nov. 3-6, Rice Cinema, Houston; Nov. 4-9, American Cinematheque, Hollywood, Calif.; Nov. 4-10, Hippodrome Cinema, Gainesville, Fla.; Nov. 4-10, The Guild Cinema, Albuquerque, N.M.; Nov. 7, The Detroit Institute of Arts, The Detroit Film Theater, Detroit; Nov. 11-24, Northwest Film Forum, Seattle; Nov. 11-17, Orpheum Theatre, Madison, Wis.; Nov. 11-17, Salt Lake Film Society, Salt Lake City; Nov. 29-30, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Dec. 9-15, E Street Cinema, Washington; Dec. 9, George Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.