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Cinema: Pro-Hopaganda

2 minute read

Eyewitness— North Viet Nam is a 43-minute documentary that offers Western moviegoers a rare glimpse of North Viet Nam. Directed and narrated by James Cameron, a left-wing British journalist who last year published a blandly tendentious report about his brief visit to Hanoi and environs, Eyewitness is a loose collection of such random unrevelatory footage as Cameron’s cameramen were permitted to expose.

About a third of the film reflects no political bias: shoppers in a busy department store, workers in a modern textile factory. About a third of it is warmly pro-Ho: President Ho Chi Minh himself appears only in stills, but the movie offers an interview showing Premier Pham Van Dong as a merry little grig who seems about to warble Whistle While You Work. There is also a sequence in which grinning peasants hoist the engine of a fallen U.S. bomber on their shoulder poles and haul it home in triumph like a captured tiger. About a third of the footage is indignantly anti-American: shots of schoolchildren digging trenches (“an outrage and an imposition”), views of a TB clinic allegedly destroyed by U.S. bombs that overshot a bridge (“You mustn’t be ill near a bridge”). Cameron claims in his commentary that U.S. bombings have not significantly weakened the North’s economy, and have actually strengthened the people’s will to win; his footage supplies little evidence to support either contention.

As the film begins, Reporter Cameron observes: “They let me in, I’m not sure why.” When the film ends, the moviegoer is pretty sure why.

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