Blu-Ray Review: Hearts and Minds

The Vietnam War was one of the lowest points in post-war US history, and there is stiff competition for that title. The USSR and America spent almost twenty years waging a proxy war in south east Asia. For a country renowned for its patriotism and nationalism, it proved to be a highly contentious conflict at home and has only suffered in hindsight. Today, in most of the world, it’s considered to be a military, humanitarian and moral failure.

Politicians and military commanders like to talk about the concept of ‘winning hearts and minds’. During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon B Johnson promoted this campaign. If anything, it was even less successful than most of the actual fighting. In his documentary Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis considers what this phrase means in relation to the conflict. Using interviews and archive footage to paint a picture of just how disastrous it was, at home and abroad.

Hearts and Minds is a difficult and powerful anti-war documentary which depicts horrific events as well as cataloguing equally disgusting attitudes. This is not the usual Vietnam footage we’re used to seeing. Davis actively engages with the media from the time, tackling reaction both within America and South-East Asia. Hearts and Minds is an essay on moral outrage. On what happens when people are corrupted by propaganda and hate.

Special edition features:

  • High-definition digital restoration, supervised by director Peter Davis and cinematographer Richard Pearce, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary featuring Davis
  • A collection of over two hours of Davis’s unused footage, including excerpts from interviews with presidential adviser George Ball, broadcast journalist David Brinkley, French journalist and historian Philippe Devillers, and political activist Tony Russo; additional excerpts from General William Westmoreland’s interview; additional audio excerpts from presidential adviser Walt Rostow’s interview; and scenes from a funeral and a military hospital in South Vietnam
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Davis, film critic Judith Crist, and historians Robert K. Brigham, George C. Herring, and Ngo Vinh Long

Hearts and Minds is released on Blu-ray in the UK as part of the Criterion Collection on 26 September.

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