People

TV

What went down at Dien Bien Phu

SUE FERGUSON March 22 2004
People

TV

What went down at Dien Bien Phu

SUE FERGUSON March 22 2004

TV

What went down at Dien Bien Phu

SUE FERGUSON

Vietnam: Ghosts of War announces its conclusion in the opening shot: “For 30 unrelenting years, two great powers, first France, then America, sought to crush a small Third World nation only to encounter a true superpower... human resistance.” But this doesn’t diminish the dramatic effect of the film, which uses the 1954 French surrender at Dien Bien Phu to present its thesis. And even the slow, sometimes stilted, diction of its self-proclaimed “haggard-looking” host and writer-director, Michael Maclear, isn’t able to weigh down this compelling story.

The drama of Vietnam ( History, March 18 at 8 p.m. EST) comes from its authenticity. Not only does Maclear revisit sites and stories he reported on as a CBC correspondent in the 1960s, but the script and filming are entirely unrehearsed. “At no time did we know what to expect,” he says. “You came upon something and found yourself saying what had been in the back of your mind.” The same could be said of the French officers he interviews, who speak candidly of their misguided actions. It’s war, uncensored, for a change.