Ken Burns’ ‘Vietnam War’ explores all sides

Documentary filmmaker recently spoke with KOIN 6 News

Ken Burns participates in the "The Vietnam War" panel during the PBS portion of the 2017 Summer TCA's at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, July 30, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Ken Burns participates in the "The Vietnam War" panel during the PBS portion of the 2017 Summer TCA's at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Sunday, July 30, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Ken Burns’ newest documentary, which premiered Sept. 17 on PBS, focuses on the Vietnam War — the war that divided a nation.

The legendary filmmaker — along with co-director Lynn Novik — spent 10 years putting together the 10-part, 18-hour documentary film series, titled “The Vietnam War.”

Ken Burns talks to KOIN 6 News about his new documentary, “The Vietnam War,” as seen on Sept. 18, 2017. (KOIN)

“It’s a subject that Americans don’t really want to talk about,” Burns said. “It was divisive for us back then and it’s divisive in conversation for us now.”

Burns and Novik wanted to look at the Vietnam War with a new perspective.

“When Americans usually talk about war, they talk about themselves in a war,” Burns said. “This is a war that had 2 other countries involved — one of which disappeared at the end.”

The Vietnam War pitted the communist regime of North Vietnam and its allies Viet Cong against South Vietnam and its main ally — the United States.

“It’s too easy to think of ourselves as the good guys and the enemy as the bad guys or vice versa,” Novik said.

The film gives the audience insight from all sides, including a former Viet Cong soldier who said he was moved when witnessing the death of American soldiers — highlighting a profound sense of humanity.

Burns said today’s turbulent times are a reflection of what was swirling around America during the Vietnam War.

“In the case of Vietnam because there are so many mirrored things — mass demonstrations document drops of classified information reaching out to a foreign power asymmetrical warfare,” Burns said. “A White House concerned with fake news, obsessed with leaks, all of this sort of stuff. You begin to understand that maybe that history you are studying isn’t that irrelevant stuff.”

“But maybe, the greatest teacher we have is the guide on how to negotiate the complicated rocky shoals of where we are now,” Burns continued.