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The Vietnam War

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at “The Vietnam War” With Tim Egan, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick

October 3, 2017

In a conversation with New York Times columnist Tim Egan, Ken Burns and Lynn Novick gave KCTS 9 event attendees a behind-the-scenes look at their riveting documentary The Vietnam War

The documentary dives deep into the epic story of the war and features testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including the many Americans who fought in Vietnam and others who opposed the war. It also includes interviews from Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both sides.

In this interview with the co-directors, who spent ten years on the film, they dive into why they decided to focus a documentary on a war that is still a raw topic for many Americans.

“Not only is it real, it’s quite raw and just below the surface — it’s a festering wound. You just scratch the surface and people get very upset,” Novick said. “It was traumatic for those who fought in it and against it and for our whole country having been torn apart by it. It was one of the most important events in American history since World War II and we don’t really understand it, so we wanted to go back to the beginning and look at it from all sides.”

Burns even addressed the fact that the story of the Vietnam War isn’t one that has a redeeming quality to it.

“I mean, the Civil War ended slavery and World War II did what it did. But I emerged from this project very optimistic and that’s because the system worked,” he said. “It worked in that the American people changed their minds, government and the outcome of the war.”

We pulled together highlights from their full conversation in the video above, and the entire ten-part, 18-hour documentary film can be viewed here.