‘The Vietnam War’ premieres Sunday on PBS
Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 1, 1970
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Vietnam War, a new 10-part, 18-hour documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, will premiere Sept. 17 on PBS stations nationwide
The film, subtitled in Vietnamese, was streamed timed to the U.S. premiere and broadcast on the film’s web page, pbs.org/thevietnamwar. Lynn Novick traveled to Vietnam for a week beginning on Aug. 22 to screen clips from the film with people featured in the film and other audiences in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Novick and Burns have been traveling the United States since earlier this year sharing clips at public screenings, including screenings with veterans and members of the Vietnamese American community.
In the United States, the first five episodes will air nightly from Sept. 17 through 21, and the final five episodes will air nightly from Sept. 24 through Sept. 28. Each episode will premiere at 8:00 p.m. ET with a repeat broadcast immediately following the premiere (check local listings). The film will also be available in Spanish on streaming.
On Sunday, concurrent with the broadcast premiere, the first five episodes of The Vietnam War will be available for streaming on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and PBS apps for iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast, and the final five episodes will be available beginning Sept. 24. All episodes will remain accessible until Oct. 3, when the series begins its weekly rebroadcast. During the rebroadcast period, each episode will be available to stream for two weeks. PBS station members with Passport, a benefit for donors, offering extended access to a rich library of public television programming can view the entire series (all 10 episodes) beginning Sept. 17 (contact your local PBS station for details).
In an immersive narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War as it has never before been told on film. The Vietnam War features testimony from nearly 80 witnesses, including many Americans who fought in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides.
“The Vietnam War was a decade of agony that took the lives of more than 58,000 Americans,” Burns said. “Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so torn apart. There wasn’t an American alive then who wasn’t affected in some way — from those who fought and sacrificed in the war, to families of service members and POWs, to those who protested the war in open conflict with their government and fellow citizens. More than 40 years after it ended, we can’t forget Vietnam, and we are still arguing about why it went wrong, who was to blame and whether it was all worth it.”
“We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy. Ken and I have tried to shed new light on the war by looking at it from the bottom up, the top down and from all sides,” Novick said. “In addition to dozens of Americans who shared their stories, we interviewed many Vietnamese on both the winning and losing sides, and were surprised to learn that the war remains as painful and unresolved for them as it is for us. Within this almost incomprehensibly destructive event, we discovered profound, universal human truths, as well as uncanny resonances with recent events. We are of course very excited to share this film in Vietnam and to have had an opportunity to do so with Vietnamese subtitles to reach a sizable audience there as well as in the United States.”
Ten years in the making, the series brings the war and the chaotic epoch it encompassed viscerally to life. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward, produced by Sarah Botstein, Novick and Burns, it includes rarely seen, digitally re-mastered archival footage from sources around the globe, photographs taken by some of the most celebrated photojournalists of the 20th century, historic television broadcasts, evocative home movies, and revelatory audio recordings from inside the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations.
The Vietnam War features new, original music written and recorded by Academy Award-winning composers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. The film also features new music arranged and performed by Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. It is the first time Burns and Novick have worked with Reznor and Ross, as well as with Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble. Additional music in the film was composed by David Cieri and Doug Wamble, both of whom are longtime collaborators with Florentine Films.
The series also features more than 120 popular songs that define the era, including tracks from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin, Ben E. King, Phil Ochs, Donovan, Johnny Cash, Barry McGuire, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Otis Redding, Santana, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, The Temptations, Booker T. and the M.G.s, Pete Seeger and more.
“Ever since The Civil War, Ken and Lynn have been behind some of the most important documentary films ever shown on television, films that have in fact made television history and created national conversations around who we are as Americans,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS. “The Vietnam War stands out as an unmatched documentary achievement about one of the most transformative periods in modern American history. Through our comprehensive broadcast and streaming schedules, as well as our outreach efforts, our goal is to reach as many people as possible to spark a national discussion about the issues raised in the series, in a way that only public television can.”
The film will be accompanied by an outreach and public engagement program, providing opportunities — facilitated by public television stations — for communities to participate in a national conversation about what happened during the Vietnam War, what went wrong and what lessons are to be learned. In addition, there will be a robust interactive website and an educational initiative designed to engage teachers and students through multiple platforms, including PBS LearningMedia.
Viewers are encouraged to join the conversation: #VietnamWarPBS.