Peter Davis’s 1974 documentary Hearts and Mind s has recently been reissued on DVD in a new edition containing two hours of unused material. If you are a Vietnam veteran—or if you are not and care about Vietnam veterans’ issues—do not buy the DVD.
Here’s why–as we put it in the “Arts of War” column in the print edition of The VVA Veteran the last time a new version came out in 2004 :
“A newly restored print of the 1975 Oscar-winning Vietnam War documentary, Peter Davis’s Hearts and Mind s, appeared in movie theaters around the country this summer and fall. That was not a good thing, to my way of thinking. There’s some great stuff in this polemical, antiwar film, but Hearts and Minds gives a distorted portrayal of Vietnam veterans. Davis’s point is that the United States had no business being in Vietnam and that everyone who took part in the war has blood on his or her hands.
“In putting forth this oversimplified—at best—message, Davis willfully ignores anything showing Americans and South Vietnamese in a positive light. And he portrays the NVA and VC as heroic freedom fighters. In Davis’s version of the war, American GIs raped and pillaged innocent villagers, while an unseen enemy went about heroically defending its homeland against the imperialist aggressor.
“Davis’s hero among American veterans is a deserter who tells his tale to a congressional committee. His villains are a series of military men who were up to no good on the ground in Vietnam and back home. Some veterans in the film, such as VVA founder Bobby Muller, don’t fit in either category. But the veterans Davis highlights make it appear as if we were all either racist killers or apologizing wimps.
“We all know that that’s not true and that the truth is much, much more complex.”