“The one I fly is known as birth control.”
After years of colonial governance by the French, North Vietnamese soldiers fight back against an American military presence that supports the corrupt South Vietnamese government.
Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that “Emile de Antonio’s sober documentary account of what was happening in Vietnam, and how the war had escalated to such a point, was required viewing among war protestors in 1969 and the early seventies”. He makes note of the lack of narration as well as the highly deliberate editing “showing us our higher-ups in government… making speeches about our policy in Vietnam and then showing footage that contradicts what they said”. Much of what’s here may feel or look familiar to modern viewers who’ve seen other documentaries about the war, such as Hearts and Minds (1974) or the recent docu-series by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick (2017); unique to this film are “interviews with Wayne Morse and Ernest B. Gruening, the only senators who voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that really escalated the war”, as well as other individuals (primarily white males) solicited to share their talking-head thoughts.
To a certain extent, In the Year of the Pig is a documentary very much of-its-time: it had a certain power in 1969 when we were still deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War, and decisions discussed on-screen related to current life-or-death outcomes. However, Peary argues that while the “film has an undeniable fascination… too much serendipity is evident in the choice of footage and interview subjects”. He notes his frustration that “we never feel we’re getting a full story about any aspect of the war”, and shares that “even in 1969 [he] thought the film was weak”, given de Antonio’s clear bias in favor of the North Vietnamese. I disagree: it was de Antonio’s prerogative as a creative montagist to pull together clips that supported his argument, and his documentary — while certainly not comprehensive — prompts us to interpret the conflict in a unique and provocative way.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Many powerful, heartbreaking images and scenes
Yes, for its historical relevance as a seminal anti-war film.
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)