After more than forty-five years that it ended, the Vietnam War is still a topic that attracts attention, especially—as it should be—of Americans ( FTA Jane Fonda Donald Sutherland ). Of course, in the U.S., it was a traumatic episode for a whole generation that ended up stuck in the battlefields of a far-away country in which they had no business to be in. A few weeks ago, we commented on “The Trial of the Chicago 7″—the movie directed by Aaron Sorkin that also touched the issue from the point of view of those opposed to the war and is now nominated for an Oscar in the Best Movie category.
“FTA” was a documentary directed by Francine Parker and released in 1972. However, because of pressure from authorities, it only lasted in theatres for a week. Thanks to a meticulous work of restoration and an introduction by one of the protagonists of the story—Jane Fonda—the film is soon to be available to viewers once again. Those who may feel doubtful about this documentary’s pertinence, more than four decades later, it is interesting to remark how many of the testimonies and comments included in the film are extremely relevant today. All references to racism in American society, especially; but also the characterization of U.S. intervention in other countries as an “imperialistic” policy, are still applicable.
The title of the documentary was supposed to stand for different things. FTA could be “Free Theatre Associates.” This was a group of actors, singers, and musicians who started the Pacific Rim tour in the early 1970s to provide the soldiers with an alternative to the entertainment full of jingoistic contents offered by Bob Hope et al., under the auspices of the Pentagon. FTA could also be “Free the Army,” but the acronym’s actual, irreverent meaning was “F**k the Army!” Of course, the military was not happy. Still, in the end, they couldn’t stop the show: from Hawaii to Okinawa, to the Philippines, the groups of artists: Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Len Chandler, Holly Near, Pamela Donegan, Rita Martinson, among many others, managed to entertain the GIs while at the same time raise consciousness about the injustice of the war.
Besides the music and the many comic skits, the movie includes interviews with many GIs then enrolled to go to the war. One of the black soldiers at one point reflects: “we want to impose democracy on other peoples, but we don’t have equality nor justice for black people in America.” Sutherland’s speech toward the end of the movie is perhaps the most touching moment since it delineates the war’s injustice and the plea for peace. Still, at the same time, he warns those in a position of power of the consequences of rejecting the people’s demands for justice.
“FTA” is a documentary film that will appeal to those who followed the Vietnam War from a safe distance in Canada. It underlines how it stroke at young Americans at the time (then military service was obligatory). It should also appeal to those interested in politics and history.
In cinemas and streaming services by next week. Duration: 143 min