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How Ken Burns and Lynn Novick Assembled Their Epic Documentary 'The Vietnam War'

"We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy."9/22/2017 1:45 AM Eastern
Discussing the epic, 18-episode PBS documentary from co-directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, The Vietnam War, David Bianculli explains "there are neither historians nor famous voices — just actual participants in the drama surrounding that war, and well-chosen vintage TV news coverage from the period. 

"TV coverage also was used extensively in PBS's previous lengthy examination of this conflict, 1983's Vietnam: A Television History. But no previous documentary has made such an effort to hear from — and listen to — all sides, including the American soldiers fighting in Vietnam, the Vietnamese, the Viet Cong, the doctors and nurses, and the POWs. And back in the States, we hear from the parents and the siblings of the soldiers, as well as the anti-war protesters." To read the full article, click here.



In the series, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War using testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.

"We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy," Novick says. "Ken and I have tried to shed new light on the war by looking at it from the bottom up, the top down and from all sides.

"In addition to dozens of Americans who shared their stories, we interviewed many Vietnamese on both the winning and losing sides, and were surprised to learn that the war remains as painful and unresolved for them as it is for us. Within this almost incomprehensibly destructive event, we discovered profound, universal human truths, as well as uncanny resonances with recent events."

New Ken Burns Series Remembers Vietnam War Through the Eyes of Everyday People

Why Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's Vietnam War PBS Documentary Took 10 Years to Make

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick on The Vietnam War

"Burns and Novick knew from the beginning that making the version of The Vietnam War they envisioned, involving reporting in both the United States and Vietnam and sifting through emerging historical research on the conflict, would take a decade," writes Alyssa Rosenberg.

"They began by listing the sorts of experiences they hoped to chronicle. How did American, North Vietnamese and South Vietnamese soldiers experience the same battles? What was it like to protest the war when that was a marginal position and to see that dissent swell into a mass movement? What did it mean to have your family divided, whether by death, disagreement over which Vietnamese government to support, or desperation to avoid the draft?" To read the full article, click here



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