If you think the current anti-war movement camouflages an anti-American sentiment, you’re only partly right. Rent or buy FTA, the 1972 Vietnam War protest documentary just released on DVD after a 37-year absence. It’s the best example of an anti-war brigade which set out to blast America right along with its hawkish foreign policy. And it’s headlined by — big surprise –Jane Fonda. FTA captures Fonda, Donald Sutherland, and lesser known artists traveling throughout U.S. military bases, both here and abroad, to protest the war — and just about every facet of American life.
And yes, the letter “F” in the title does stand for what you think it does, even though the tour regulars merrily shout out “Foxtrot … Tango … Alpha …” in some of their song and dance skits.
The film makes for a fine historical document, even if its entertainment value is hopelessly dated. Clearly, releasing the film anew wasn’t mean to reintroduce cobwebbed protest songs to popular culture, and the political skits require plenty of background reading to fully appreciate them. And they’re not always worth the effort, although one bit involving a battle being described like a sports game is inspired. But anyone looking to tell their child or grandchild what the Vietnam War protests were all about need not bother. Just pop in the DVD and let them see for themselves. FTA combines musical numbers, political speeches, heartfelt ballads, and interviews with U.S. soldiers lined up staunchly against the war. It’s a pastiche that’s sloppily arranged but still effective. The message comes through loud and clear, and it’s rarely dull.
“We are waging a genocidal war in Vietnam,” one balladeer tells the crowd. And that’s only scratching the surface of the anger directed toward the U.S. This country is imperialistic, bullying, racist, sexist … and too many other flaws to list here. Oh, and we never should have gone into Vietnam to kill the “yellow man.”
We’re also treated to a short segment on the effects of radiation on those who survived the atomic bomb drops in Japan to end World War II. No context is given for the U.S.’s actions. Context often kills whatever mojo the anti-warriors hope to ratchet up. Just ask the Rev. Jeremiah Wright about how subtracting context helps your rail-thin arguments against America.