When filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick began research for a 10-part PBS documentary on the Vietnam War, they thought they knew the material. After all, Burns was of draft age in 1970, though his draft number was too high for him to be called to serve.
But as they began interviewing subjects and sorting through archival footage, Burns and Novick soon came to appreciate just how complicated the war was. “We went in, both of us, with this kind of arrogance about it, and immediately had that blown out of the water,” Burns says. “We realized we knew nothing.”
In The Vietnam War, the filmmakers reconcile themselves with the war’s inherent contradictions by offering multiple perspectives on the conflict. The series includes interviews with the American, South Vietnamese and North Vietnamese soldiers who fought in it — as well as with Americans who protested against it.
Burns and co-director Novick tell Fresh Air that their work on the series deepened their understanding of the war. For his part, Burns likens the documentary to a series of intertwined stories that present “a fundamental fact of not just war, but life, which is: More than one truth can [exist] at the same time.”
Read more or listen at NPR.