Though the idea of a "Ken Burns" movie inevitably conjures up the image of the shaggy-haired director himself, Burns has long worked with a number of important collaborators. And none of them is more essential than Lynn Novick. Though virtually unknown, Novick conducts the majority of the interviews for the movies she and Burns make together. And for "The Vietnam War," it was she, rather than Burns, who traveled to Vietnam to bring back essential stories for the film.
"The Vietnam War" is a truly epic documentary, running 18 hours long and covering 150 years of history. But it took 10 years to make, and an effort to navigate painful memories and powerful taboos in two countries: the United States and Vietnam. The story of how a movie like "The Vietnam War" comes to be is also a look at what two countries deeply scarred by the war they fought against each other have to do to come to terms with agonizing chapters in their pasts.
For the past four decades, the documentarian Ken Burns has been trying to give Americans shared experiences of some of the most difficult moments in our history. Now, he's tackling one of the most challenging periods in our recent past: the Vietnam War. And he's doing it at a time when audiences have never been more divided, and less interested in what they have in common.