We Went To War (2013) ***

March 24th, 2013
Author: Meredith Taylor

[youtube id=”iDst1sgNEGw” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Director:  Michael Grigsby

Script: Michael Grigsby/Rebekah Tolley

Producer: Rebekah Tolley

Score: Gallagher & Lyle

Cast: Vietnam War Vets -Dennis, David, Lamar

UK                                      77mins          Doc

With the recent news that Documentary Filmmaker Michael Grigsby died last week on March 12th comes this film concerning the long-term effects of the Vietnam War on its Vets, forty years on.

Grigsby was a doc maker for decades, making more than 30 films for the Granada World In Action and Disappearing World strands. He favoured giving his subject the mic, preferring to remain invisible and allowing them to speak for themselves. Accordingly, he never gave commentary, used voiceover, or even questioned on film and would always show the finished documentary to the subjects of his film for approval, before releasing it.

Filmed in deepest Texas, it inter-splices footage of the soldiers when they were very young, just back from the war, with where they are now: as old men trying to come to terms with what happened to them and the lasting legacy of their psychological scars not only upon themselves but their wives, children and grandchildren too.

They were a generation of men as we know, whom nobody thanked or congratulated upon their return, who felt when they went out there that they were serving their country. However, when they got back their country did precious little in returning the favour, leaving them to cope alone with the tremendous trauma of what they had witnessed and did and the multi-generational impacts of Agent Orange: premature death and children born with abnormalities and defects, unacknowledged by the state.

The film also pulls in Iraq vets, who are experiencing similar problems upon return to civilian life and again a total lack of support from their government. 18 ex-soldiers commit suicide daily.

A very moving topic then, but one given a longeurs that it doesn’t quite do enough to fill. Lingering shots of the countryside through car windows and statics of long, straight Texan roads and intersections, accompanied by a very sparse vet voiceover, leaves too much room for ones own mind to wander rather than mull.

Very little of the information given is new or insightful. Sadly, there have been so many wars before and since that the Vietnam Vets revelations that war is pointless, costs the lives of the poor, ordinary folk and that only the rich and those in power profit from it isn’t really news these days even though it seems to make no difference to American foreign policy, with young men and women continuing to return home in body-bags from some theatre of war or the other.

Michael Grigsby was a champion of the outsider; those without a voice; living on the fringes of society and his skill and insight will be sadly missed. AT


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