Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Battle for Dien Bien Phu|
Actor: Bernard Archard
Director: Peter Batty
Genres: Educational, Documentary
Robert S. Garnero | Mountain View, CA USA | 07/15/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Having previously read Bernard Fall's book, "Hell In a Very Small Place", and recently, Martin Windrow's wonderful account of this battle in "The Last Valley", I was hoping that this DVD would allow me to get a visualization of those accounts, in a tactical sequence of events, perhaps associated with maps. For instance, I was hoping to see some of the strongholds and accompanying footage of the associated engagements. There is very little of this and in fact the majority of the DVD focuses on the political aspects of the conflict. I think my expectations were to high with regard to the availability of filmed resource. For the most part, a lot of the battle footage appears to be shot from a Russian perspective, collocated with the Viet Minh. The only way that the terrain is viewed is from a sweeping view of the valley. There is a complete lack of tactical flow. I was very disappointed and ended up by throwing the DVD in the trash."
Almost completely devoid of detailed information
Utah Blaine | Somewhere on Trexalon in District 268 | 03/20/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I approached this DVD in virtually the same manner as one of the other reviewers, after having read Bernard Fall's `Hell in a Very Small Place', and came to similar conclusions. After watching this DVD, you will know almost nothing about the battle, or more importantly, the larger strategic issues from the French or Vietminh perspective that lead up to it. This DVD should have been entitled `A Shallow, Trite Summary of the Events of Dien Bien Phu from a Biased American Perspective with the hindsight of the Vietnam War'. After reading Fall's magnificent work, this DVD can only be regarded as a serious disappointment. No single aspect (tactical/operational/strategic) of the battle is covered in any detail. I didn't really learn anything about the actual fighting other than how the Vietminh dragged their guns through the jungle. I think that this film also grossly oversimplifies the political situation of the combatants. There are a few redeeming features of the film (I think that relegating it to the garbage pail is a bit harsh). First, much of the footage as one of the other reviewers notes is from Soviet/Vietminh films. It is interesting to see how the Vietminh wanted to see themselves viewed. Second, an important point made in the film is how the Vietminh transformed themselves from an insurgency to a legitimate army and defeated a modern, Western First World military. More recent events came to mind as I was watching this film: the defeat of the IDF by Hezbollah in South Lebanon in 2006.
The bottom line is if you are looking for a cursory summary of the events of Dien Bien Phu from an American perspective (particularly if the goal is to put the Vietnam war into larger perspective) and have no more than an hour to devote to this, you may find this DVD interesting. Perhaps it would be useful to show to a 9th grade history class. For a serious student, however, don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed. This is strictly a watch once DVD (i.e. rent it from Netflix), there is no need to make it part of your collection, you won't be watching it over and over. If you really want to understand the military and political issues related to Dien Bien Phu, buy Fall's book and spend the time to read it."
Interesting Footage on a Narrow Topic
Matthew P. Arsenault | SW Michigan | 01/19/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The battle of Dien Bien Phu is one of the greatest water-shed events of the second half of the twentieth century. Not only did Dien Bien Phu instigate the fall of the French Fourth Republic, but ushered in American involvement in Vietnam, contributed to Cambodian genocide of the late 1970s and shaped the foreign policy of numerous nations. Although much has been written on the battle, little is available in the way of video footage. Although this documentary fails to explore the intricacies of Dien Bien Phu do, those issues covered give the viewer an idea of the importance of the battle. Much of the video is taken from the perspective of the Vietminh, but a substantial portion captures the initial days of the campaign, including the first para assault and the early days of construction. In addition, footage of the more famous commanders provides faces to the names mentioned in Fall's Hell in a Very Small Place, and Windrow's The Last Valley, and interviews with survivors of Dien Bien Phu. In all, the DVD is excellent for those really interested in Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam, or international relations, but may seem lacking and slow to those who are casual viewers. I certainly would suggest reading up on the topic beforehand in order to truly appreciate the footage."
An excellent resource for students
Andrew Nizborski | 02/01/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had to respond to Mr. Garnero's review. Yes, the film, at an hour long, is very short on tactical details, but it is strong on the politics and strategic thinking surrounding an important battle that is given short shrift in American history classrooms. I would highly recommend this film for those classrooms as the perfect introduction to any discussion about the Second Indochina War (America's Vietnam). And the next time, dear reader, you are disappointed with something that has educational value, please consider contributing to your local library, instead of the dump."