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Winter Soldier - The Film

Winter Soldier Review

Variety, Wednesday May 10, 1972
Critics Week at Cannes, Mosk.

Winter Soldier (U.S.) Documentary - 16mm

Docu on Vietnam vets talking of atrocities witnessed or taken part in, made by a team of 18 filmmakers who have decided to remain anonymous. No credits except a filming of the Detroit Winter Soldier Investigation in 1971. Reviewed in Cannes, Critics Week 5/5/72. Running time 96 minutes.

A documentary based on the 1971 Detroit Winter Soldier Investigation during which over 200 ex-GIs who had been in Vietnam testified on American atrocities there, with most having participated, affected by them or trying to understand what had happened to them and their fellow soldiers. Its sheer cumulative power transcends any propagandistic level and makes a shattering statement on the degradation of war, the myths of glory and the insidious undermining of the morale of these men returning to civilian life.

The mixture of articulateness and non-articulateness, the halting and more forthright talk, the building of an overwhelming authentic feel make this a film that overrides any consideration of art, technique or the usual critical preoccupations. It will shock, move, appal or anger.

"Winter Soldier" was offered to television in the U.S. but rejected by all three commercial networks and public tv. This was in spite of the Pentagon's inability to criticize or refute any of the testimony. After many months, the film was aired on WNET-TV, the New York non-commercial station, and just previous to that was seen in part, along with a panel discussion, on WNYC-TV's "All About Television" series. (WNYC-TV is New York's city owned UHF station. Also the hearings were aired via eight hours of tape on Pacifica Foundation's listener-sponsored stations - ED.)

Film builds up a mosaic of talk that grows in power from their almost na•ve innocence counterpointed by the horrors they depict. Intercutting youthful snaps of these men and scenes from Vietnam, interweave for a revelation on how ordinary people can become killers on the assumptions that one has to survive, revenge buddies or that all is fair in war.

Perhaps more of this might have helped, but it is a powerful indictment on film that should raise pros and cons, get attention, if well-placed, handled, and labeled in special situations, with school cinematheque or perhaps only educational tv usage also there.


The power to rivet your gaze to the screen and glue you to your seat
Sally Helgesen, Village Voice

Atrocities and artless innocence
Amos Vogel, Village Voice

Sometimes the small incidents are the most gripping film
Leonard Harris, broadcast on WCBS-TV

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