Course Blog for Danny Mayer's ENG 281 course. Post 500 word minimum responses for each film viewed in class. Choose an aspect, theme, cinematic wizardry, or scene, and analyze/celebrate it. Post by the Wednesday before class.
In the Year of the Pig, in my mind, was the most difficult documentary I have personally viewed thus far. However, the challenge was equally met with curiosity about the political “propaganda,” as well as the slight shift in focus about Sixties culture. I particularly liked how the film included numerous original interviews from both sides of the conflict. Even in the beginning, the terror of war was captured through a monochromatic montage of terrifying images. Shadowing the images was an intensely audible “screams,” most likely the same sound one may hear when planes pass overhead. This inclusion gave me chills and immediately caught my attention: this was dread of most of the Sixties. The film was released in the year of 1969, many years before the conflict was resolved. I wonder, how did the general public react to this type of documentary in comparison to watching, say, Woodstock? Televisions were most likely unable to display the types of scenes seen in the film, such as the event of the burning monk. Even in the scene where the French patriotic song was played over Vietnamese instruments, how did viewers react to this type of dark irony? How did they react to the feeling of being directly placed into the action of Vietnam? Obviously, I may be confusing to many things at once. I am not entirely educated in the matters of American history, but the dramatic change in media certainly piques my wonder. The only quote I can really recall was that of Colonel George Patton’s statement about the American troops. He was talking about the most recent memorial service for American troops, of which he stated that they were looking “determined yet reverent,” and later adding: “they’re still a bloody good bunch of killers.” Still, even after this quote, I found it hard to hold any angst against his words. This was war. This was a fight for survival for the troops and nations alike. Antonio used many of his quotes as a way to work a feeling of direct contact with the time period and settling a viewpoint. Never was there a narrator explaining sequences and scenes as they passed like some slow paced amusement ride. Rather, the inclusion of the viewer into the shoes of the soldier, victims, and onlooker was placed first in importance, seemingly. Now, how would the film change if ‘communism’ were replaced with ‘terrorism?’ The remarks made by politicians of the time seemed to sound like they were defending their reasons why the troops were there in the first place. Sounds all too familiar. All in all, I found Pig to be very interesting, and certainly, enlightening. I hope to learn more about Sixties politics, for I do not understand a lot about it. Even through the confusion, the tumultuous period was very well represented through this single documentary.
This documentary was a boring blend of black and white footage and some relevant interviews. Given its time of release was the most interesting part of this film, its influence on the viewers of the time. Being released six years before the end of USA participation in the Vietnam War and only nineteen years since USA military advisors were sent over. Its easy to imagine those who considered themselves patriots despite the evidence of conspiracy in Vietnam, couldn’t of been happy to see this film released and just to spite those people the film had a series of interestingly timed usage of patriotic music playing in certain controversial scenes.The conspiracy implication in this film is palpable and so I believe more attention should be placed on that theory. Recent accounts have supported that the second Tonkin Gulf attack, after which Congress granted a blank check to prosecute the Vietnam War, never actually occurred. Then there was the “Pentagon Papers” a series of documents originally created for historical purposes that was illegal released to the public revealing the lies and extent of violence the governments was willing to go threw to deceive the public into allowing the government to extend the futile war attempt. The papers revealed that the government had deliberately expanded its war with bombing of Cambodia and Laos, and coastal raids on North Vietnam, none of which had been reported by media. The most damaging revelations in the papers revealed that four presidents had misled the public regarding their intentions. For example Kennedy had planned to overthrow the South Vietnamese leader before his death, and Johnson had decided to expand the war while promising "we seek no wider war", including plans to bomb North Vietnam well before the 1964 election.The cynic in me will bring to attention the well timed patriotic music in the film in scenes that were of deceits and lies broadcasted at mainstream America despite the actuality of what was going on in Vietnam. Imagine a war torn American soldiers, legless and bloody, being carried off the battlefield while "Old Glory" is being played with Indonesian instruments. The director’s ironic use of music would be used decades later in films like "Born on the Fourth of July" and "Coming Home". The film shows that Vietnam was always a single country, also shows the fact that the government treated the conflict as a symbolic war against Communism and provides insight into the government's increasing control of the media.Also worth noting is how this films can be paralleled with the conflict with Iraq, the same thing happened. The September eleven attacks became our flashpoint, when in fact it had nothing to do with Iraq. Fake information were then used to convince mainstream America that Arabs possessed "Weapons of Mass Destruction". The truth was, these weapons didn't exist, and what primitive weapons they did have, we sold them in the first place. Fortunately this clear repetition of deceit over the public over whom it governs is lost because of over stimulation and blasé.
In the Year of the Pig is a denunciation of the Vietnam War, which quite possibly may be considered on of America’s darkest hours. This raw and powerful anti-Vietnam documentary is composed of archival footage, interviews from both sides of the war and disturbing images that are still to this day hard to view. This documentary is not only historically accurate but its extremely artistic as well as horribly overwhelming. This film, in my opinion, is very ironic throughout its entirety. The way de Antonio uses the juxtaposition presents a very critical view of American foreign policy and that’s pretty ingenious. He really seemed to show the irony of everything that was happening over in Vietnam and how Americans felt and reacted to the propaganda that the “administration” was feeding them.One of the most memorable clips from the film, for me, was when you see the montage of the American soldiers lying limbless and bloody and being carried off the battlefield. That may not be too memorable to most but it was the music that de Antonio chose for the montage that really set off the irony he was trying to show. You see these men being carted off while “Old Glory” is playing and its not the way most people have heard it. It is being played by native instruments to Vietnam and Asia. This was just one of the sound/image juxtapositions that was notable in the film.Another great example of the juxtaposition was when you hear the General state that no prisoners were being harmed while in custody of Americans. As the General is speaking about this de Antonio gracefully shows a specific clip of this Vietnamese soldier not rebelling or even saying anything to this American soldier, but the soldier proceeds to brutally beat this man for what seems to be no apparent reason whatsoever. This didn’t really sit well for me and was almost hard to watch because in present day situations especially the war in Afghanistan, American soldiers who were taken hostage would not want to be treated this way neither would anyone for that matter. All of the propaganda that was being fed to Americans is really what helped to make the Sixties what it is known for in the modern day. Many soldiers who had come back from Vietnam were telling their experiences and what they saw while they were over there and it was this that contradicted several issues that the “administration” was speaking of. This really helped to get the ball rolling on the anti-war activism because many people were sick and tired of being “lied” to by their government and didn’t want to sit back while young men were being sent over to this foreign country to possibly give up their lives and for what reason. Many soliders joined in the activist activities and/or would go AWOL because they refused to go back over to Vietnam after all of the horror they witnessed first hand.I feel that this has been by far the most disturbing film that we have watched thus far in the course. De Antonio really left no stone unturned in this documentary. Considering this film was released and the director really had no idea of when this conflict between America and Vietnam was going to end was pretty true to how most people see the conflict and the effects/outcomes of the war.
Bene's ResponseBene Toomey While I was watching the documentary In the year of the Pig, there were a lot of things that I found interesting. A lot of small things stood out to me. One of the things that really caught my attention was when they were talking about how many people were in the war. The American leaders said that America did not like to willingly sacrifice their men, and that the Orientals were ready and willing to die. This got me thinking about the differences between the two cultures. Not only were the two mindsets different, but their fighting styles were very diverse as well. On one hand you have the Americans who are willing to serve and die for their country and what they have been told is right, on the other you have the Vietnamese that are not only fighting for what they are told is right but also because many were motivated by idealism. Others had been pressured or shamed into joining because they place more importance on honor and pleasing their elders. The leaders of America do not want to lose men if they don’t have to, and neither do the Vietnamese leaders. The Vietnamese leaders and people do not see the losses the same way we do though. To us, it is seen as sad and a life wasted. To them it does not seem like as much of a waste, its seen as for a good cause and purpose. It does not mean that all Americans or all Vietnamese were fighting for the same reasons, or were as willing or unwilling to fight and possibly die. Even the ways in which the Americans and Vietnamese actually fought in the war differed from each other. The Americans were very impatient and wanted to get things done quickly and as soon as possible. It was said that the Orientals were very patient and that it was in their nature. They were said to be the opposite of the Americans and could just sit and wait. The Vietcong used guerilla warfare. It is a form of irregular warfare where small groups of people use military tactics like ambushes, sabotage, and the element of surprise to harass a less mobile army or to strike when the target is vulnerable. Right after the attack the attackers almost immediately withdraw. They even used left over supplies and explosives from dud American bombs, so what Americans just wasted actually helped out the enemy. The American used a few different tactics. They tried to win the war from the air, by dropping millions of tons of high explosive bombs after not having much success on the ground. They also used a deadly chemical mixture to kill off millions of acres of jungle to weaken the Vietcong. It was known as Agent Orange. There were a lot of other ways in which the two cultures were different and some that were even the same. We cannot expect everyone to do things exactly like other people. They do what works best for them and we can see that here. They use what was available to them and do the best they can with it.
Chelsea's ResponseIn the Year of the Pig (1968) by Emile de Antonio This film is similar to events that were occurring in the film Berkeley in the Sixties. In the Year of the Pig focused more on the Vietnam War than Berkeley in the Sixties. It was I suppose you could say behind the scenes of the Vietnam War. I thought this was a very interesting film and you saw things that not many people knew about until of course after this film was released. I can understand why it would be controversial because of how much was covered and how people really got an insider into the politics and just how corrupt everything seemed to be during this time. I remember seeing a solider in the introduction of the film wearing a combat helmet on his head with the words "Make war, not love" written plain as day across the top of the helmet. I just thought that it made somewhat of a statement and I suppose it was a way for people to express how they really felt with what was going on. After JFK was assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson became president and thats when the real battle between the U.S. and the Vietnamese occurred. Allegedly one of our ships, the U.S.S Maddox was attacked by Vietnamese Soldiers and that was the start of all this mess. Although there was a discussion with a man who was working below in the radar room who said he never saw an attack. So in my opinion I think this was all a big mix up and a huge crisis that should have never even occurred had people told the truth instead of making up lies just to have a War. I blame the government honestly. I blame them because it seems like every time there is a crisis in America, it is caused by some government official who has a grudge. I don't know, I could be completely ranting at this point, but thats how I feel sometimes. Also in the film, I think it was maybe Nixon or Johnson, some government official, said that the innocent in Vietnam were not being harmed and that they were not destroying villages wit innocent people in or around them. Now this may be why there was some controversy with this film, because they show footage where American soldiers have taken some Vietnamese men and had them tied up and were beating them with their weapons and villages were getting pillaged and were destroying the lives of innocent people. I could just see so much hate from the American soldiers toward the Vietnamese people. Yes I know they were our target to fight in the war, but that doesn't mean you wipe out the women and children and abuse the men that aren't even fighting this battle. Also when the American soldiers are on the beach they are being racist towards the Vietnamese women. That was uncalled for, but those were also different times before people started to become more open minded about other cultures and religions and races. This also bring me back to where during an interview, General Mark Clark, I think his name was who said "I wouldn't trade one dead American for fifty dead Asian bodies". So yet again a lot of biased and racial opinions. This is by far one of the most interesting documentaries I have seen. It really opened my eyes to many things and many ideas. I guess you could say it fed my brain.
Liberty's ResponseThe United States is supposed to be this great land where you have all the freedom you want, and it’s supposed to be a “melting pot” of races and cultures. I don’t think that’s entirely true. In my opinion, The United States has had a long history of racism and prejudice. The man that wrote, “all men are created equal”, Thomas Jefferson, was a slave owner. In one book, he actually said that he thought white people were superior to black people. I think it’s so weird that he could get away with two such contradictory statements. Native Americans have also been victim of racism in The United States. We all know that the white Europeans stole Native American land, forced them to assimilate to western norms, and slaughtered many of them. They got away with it because they claimed Native Americans were less than human. In some science books, black people were considered closer to animals than humans. In modern times though, for the most part, society realizes those are very racist views. In the 1960’s though, The United States was still very racist.Although slavery had been abolished way before the 1960’s, black people were still being persecuted, and still considered by a lot of society to be less than human. They were not allowed to use the same bathrooms, eat in the same restaurants, or even sit in the front of the bus. It was mostly through protests that old laws based on racism were gotten rid of.In the 1969 documentary “In The Year of the Pig”, directed by Emile de Antonio, there are a lot of examples of The United States being racist in the 1960’s. The film gives an overview of the Vietnam War. There are a lot of shocking images in the beginning of the film. Some of the shocking images are, a monk on fire, and an Asian child smoking. In one scene, you hear someone saying that the American soldiers aren’t mistreating Vietnamese prisoners. But as you hear that you see an American soldier beating up a Vietnamese man. I feel like some of the American soldiers were already racist towards the Vietnamese. Anytime we are with war with somebody, it becomes socially acceptable to be blatantly racist towards that group of people. With the Vietnam War, it was okay to call people slant eyes or gooks. In another scene in the movie, there are a group of American soldiers on the beach. They interviewer asks them something like, “what’s missing?”, the soldiers all reply in unison, “AMERICAN GIRLS!”. The interviewer then says, “well what about those girls over there?” (Referring to a group of Vietnamese women sitting on the beach), the soldiers then say remarks like “oh they’re no good. They’re slant eyes, they’re gooks.” When I saw that part of the movie, it shocked me. I knew that a lot of racism went on during the 1960’s, but I didn’t think that The United States would be racist toward the people they were supposedly trying to “help”. Then I realized that they probably viewed all Vietnamese people the same, whether they were from South Vietnam or North Vietnam. Although racism still exists today, I think that we have come a long way from the racism of the 1960’s. But just because the US doesn’t segregate blacks and whites anymore, I still feel that if we are fighting a war, no matter who the people are we are fighting, people would still consider it okay to be racist towards them.
Bene's responseBene Toomey While I was watching the documentary In the year of the Pig, there were a lot of things that I found interesting. A lot of small things stood out to me. One of the things that really caught my attention was when they were talking about how many people were in the war. The American leaders said that America did not like to willingly sacrifice their men, and that the Orientals were ready and willing to die. This got me thinking about the differences between the two cultures. Not only were the two mindsets different, but their fighting styles were very diverse as well. On one hand you have the Americans who are willing to serve and die for their country and what they have been told is right, on the other you have the Vietnamese that are not only fighting for what they are told is right but also because many were motivated by idealism. Others had been pressured or shamed into joining because they place more importance on honor and pleasing their elders. The leaders of America do not want to lose men if they don’t have to, and neither do the Vietnamese leaders. The Vietnamese leaders and people do not see the losses the same way we do though. To us, it is seen as sad and a life wasted. To them it does not seem like as much of a waste, its seen as for a good cause and purpose. It does not mean that all Americans or all Vietnamese were fighting for the same reasons, or were as willing or unwilling to fight and possibly die. Even the ways in which the Americans and Vietnamese actually fought in the war differed from each other. The Americans were very impatient and wanted to get things done quickly and as soon as possible. It was said that the Orientals were very patient and that it was in their nature. They were said to be the opposite of the Americans and could just sit and wait. The Vietcong used guerilla warfare. It is a form of irregular warfare where small groups of people use military tactics like ambushes, sabotage, and the element of surprise to harass a less mobile army or to strike when the target is vulnerable. Right after the attack the attackers almost immediately withdraw. They even used left over supplies and explosives from dud American bombs, so what Americans just wasted actually helped out the enemy. The American used a few different tactics. They tried to win the war from the air, by dropping millions of tons of high explosive bombs after not having much success on the ground. They also used a deadly chemical mixture to kill off millions of acres of jungle to weaken the Vietcong. It was known as Agent Orange. There were a lot of other ways in which the two cultures were different and some that were even the same. We cannot expect everyone to do things exactly like other people. They do what works best for them and we can see that here. They use what was available to them and do the best they can with it.
Let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that. —Richard M. NixonI thought “Berkeley in the 60’s” was tough to watch because of its violence. But “In the Year of the Pig” is stings the eyes with its graphic, penetrating ,and often frightening images, confirming once again the immorality and the wickedness of the Vietnam War and its consequences. What started as a fear of communist influence and the potential for a “Domino Effect” transformed into a powerful obsession by the US government to exercise control and power. “Now we have a problem in making our power credible, and Vietnam is the place” (John F. Kennedy, 1961) without any consideration for the human loss.This documentary doesn’t use "voice-over" by the filmmaker to prove a point. The viewer was just shown a juxtaposition of both sides, of different pieces of reality, and was left to draw his own conclusions. The soundtrack of the film leaves you drained somehow.
After seeing this documentary and hearing comments like “Tell the Vietnamese they've got to draw in their horns or we're going to bomb them back into the Stone Age.” (Gen. Curtis LeMay, May 1964) I would have marched myself against this war. This proves how much they disregard the Vietnamese as human beings. No one should be allowed to hold such a power over people. But what can I expect from the US’ government, which didn’t have any consideration for its own soldiers, most of them being poor or black. American soldiers were butchered like animals in order to show others who is the boss. I was also amazed to find out that after this documentary was finalized and ready for the American theatres, there were threats about bombing those theatres, or writing “Pig” on the walls. People didn’t want to see the other face of the war, after all that had happened. They were not ready to admit the mistake their government made, and the part they all played in tolerating it.With this documentary, De Antonio slaps you in the face forcing you to see the ugliness of a world where the key powers of that time tried to subjugate people by any means possible. It’s a grotesque episode in American history which I was not familiar with.