In the Year of the Pig

Both sober and sobering, producer-director Emile de Antonio’s In the Year of the Pig is a powerful and, no doubt for many, controversial documentary about the Vietnam War. But although the 1968 film ultimately focuses on the United States’ participation in that ill-fated venture, de Antonio provides a considerably broader historical perspective; indeed, a good portion of its 103 minutes traces the 20th Century history of Southeast Asia, including French colonialism and the rise to power of Ho Chi Minh (described by one U.S. Senator as “the George Washington of his country”) as the Communist leader of North Vietnam. Combining extensive file footage with de Antonio’s own interviews with a variety of political and military talking heads, In the Year of the Pig goes on to deliver a clear indictment of U.S. policy and tactics in Vietnam, beginning with America’s purely “technical” role in 1954 (“We are sending planes, but no pilots,” says one general) and continuing through its support of the corrupt Diem regime in the mid-’60s, President Lyndon Johnson’s steady escalation of U.S. military involvement, and the growing opposition to the war effort here at home. Yet while De Antonio’s doesn’t hide his anti-war point of view, this will never be mistaken for a Michael Moore documentary; there’s little in the way of sensationalism or humor, and rather than confront his targets in person and onscreen, a la Moore, de Antonio simply gives them enough rope with which to hang themselves. Still, the DVD release of In the Year of the Pig in 2005 makes it hard to ignore the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. In fact, when one of the interviewees suggests that “maybe what we’ve been doing in Vietnam all along is an exercise in… the arrogance of power,” some might wonder if things have changed at all in the last forty years. –Sam Graham

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