Ken Burns Previews Vietnam War Series at Harvard Art Museums

In front of a high-profile audience at the Harvard Art Museums, Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns previewed parts of an upcoming film series about the Vietnam War Thursday night.

Hundreds, including University President Drew G. Faust and former United Nations Secretary-General and soon-to-be Kennedy School fellow Ban-Ki Moon, gathered to watch about an hour of Burns’s series, which in total includes 10 episodes and about 18 hours of footage. It follows the Vietnam War from start to finish, and includes footage and photos of the war, as well as interviews with veterans.

The series will be released September on PBS and will feature a score arrange by Yo-Yo Ma ’76.

Anthony Saich, who directs the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, praised Burns’s past work and said he is excited to see the full series. He added that the preview Thursday also shed light on a current tumultuous political climate in the United States.

“I’ve learned most of my history through Ken’s movies,” Saich said. “If anything, the film demonstrates that the current polarization and hand-wringing… is not exclusive to the political debates of today.”

The documentary series is centered on American politics in the 1960s, especially the election of Richard Nixon and anti-war demonstrations outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

The largely unpopular war reverberated through Harvard in the 1960s, when a group of students took over University Hall in an act of protest in 1969.

Several Harvard faculty also signed a statement condemning the war and bombings in North Vietnam in 1965. Also that year, roughly 200 undergraduates traveled to Washington, D.C. to participate in the March on Washington for Peace in Vietnam. An estimated 250,000 demonstrators marched in total.

After the screening, Burns and Lynn Novick, who directed the series with Burns, answered questions from the audience alongside Thomas J. Vallely, former director of the Vietnam Program at the Ash Center.

—Staff writer Lucas Ward can be reached at lucas.ward@thecrimson.com. Follow him on twitter at @LucaspfWard.

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