Friday Film Blogging: Hearts and Minds

[This week's silver screen coverage from our friend David Fellerath, film critic at the Independent Weekly]

The death of William Westmoreland earlier this week was little noted in these days of heat, Karl Rove, heat, John Roberts and more heat. But back in his day - which is before my own - General Westmoreland was a widely reviled figure in the antiwar movement of the 1960s, and, after the seismic shock of the Tet Offensive of 1968, he lost the support of the Washington establishment as well.

Perhaps it tells us something about the healing power of time that few commentators have seen fit to comment on his legacy. Or perhaps it tells us how deeply he has fallen into history's eclipse.

For those who have joined this planet in recent decades, Westmoreland was a brightly shining star of the U.S. Army who met his Little Big Horn as the architect of some of the most bone-headed and homicidal policies of the U.S. military effort in Vietnam. Arthur Schlesinger, in fact, called Westmoreland "our most disastrous general since Custer." Here's the New York Times obit, which is worth a read.

I take particular note of Westmoreland's death in a South Carolina nursing home because he plays a supporting role in Hearts and Minds, Peter Davis' classic Vietnam documentary that examines the policy justifications, the official lying and the horrific effects of war on soldiers and Vietnamese alike. Westmoreland appears on several occasions, the last to tell us that "Oriental people" don't value human life they way we do. Mercilessly, Davis intersperses these astonishing comments with images of sobbing Vietnamese villagers at gravesides.

Hearts and Minds is a grueling, intense and vitally important film. Unfortunately, it remains all too relevant to the predicament we face today. Near the film's end, Davis asks a guilt-stricken bomber pilot what we've learned from the Vietnam adventure. Probably nothing, the pilot responds.

With the sponsorship of the Independent Weekly, I've organized a series of screenings of Hearts and Minds around the Triangle. Onetime Vietnam journalist Perry Deane Young will introduce the film in Chapel Hill. All other screenings will feature a post-film appearance by author and 25-year Army veteran Stan Goff.

For more on Hearts and Minds, go here.

Sunday, July 24: Chapel Hill; Carolina Theater @ 12:30 p.m.
Monday, July 25: Durham; Carolina Theatre @ 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, July 26: Cary; Galaxy Cinema @ 7 p.m.
Wednesday, July 27: Raleigh; Colony Theater @ 7 p.m.