The 17th Parallel

The title refers to the dividing line between North and South Vietnam, and this 1968 feature by the great documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens offers a chance to spend a couple of hours with some of the villagers and soldiers we were bombing the hell out of back then. Ivens, along with his companion and collaborator Marceline Loridan, lived among the Vietnamese for two months, dodging our ammo and shooting whatever he could. In contrast to the lush colors and Dolby rock music of Apocalypse Now Redux (which was filmed in the Philippines), this is in grainy black and white with sync sound, so it has all the advantages and disadvantages of being real. The film shows underground bomb shelters being built, bombed, repaired, and used, and some of the sequences shot there are unexpectedly beautiful. By the end of the film, you may feel you’re getting to know a few things about this community: the card games played by the children, the work in the fields, the diverse preparations (both practical and ideological) for the aerial bombardment. Have a look at what we did, if you can bear to do so. 113 min. (JR)

This entry was posted in Featured Texts. Bookmark the permalink.