In winter of 1971, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War organized a conference in Detroit. For several days, more than 100 veterans testified about war atrocities they had either committed or observed during their tours of duty. Well received in Europe, the 1972 film has been virtually unknown in the United States. In fact, until recently, Americans could only learn of its existence from brief mentions in hard-to-find books, such as Amos Vogel's 1974 classic Film as a Subversive Art.
But that has changed. Thanks to a DVD rerelease (from Millarium Zero) and a Web presence (wintersoldierfilm.com), the film is now easier than ever to see, and at no time since the fall of Saigon has it been more relevant.
Though the film consists of testimony recorded by a stationary camera, the testimony is moving and often chilling. Vets talk about throwing bound prisoners of war out of high-flying helicopters, describe search-and-destroy missions, and tell what that Americans were not learning from the mass media: Innocent civilians were bearing the brunt of the war.
Screens Friday, Jan. 5, as part of "Meditations on War" at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-832-6622. Talk at 8 p.m., film at 9 p.m.
Michael Jackman is a writer and copy editor for Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.