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The Trials of Henry Kissinger
The Trials of Henry Kissinger
Actors: Brian Cox, Anna Chennault, Amy Goodman, Alexander Haig, Seymour Hersh
Director: Eugene Jarecki
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
NR     2003     1hr 20min

Even as it preaches to those who will relish its witch-hunting zeal, The Trials of Henry Kissinger makes a potent assertion that the legendary diplomat and former Secretary of State is guilty of crimes against humanity. Pr...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Brian Cox, Anna Chennault, Amy Goodman, Alexander Haig, Seymour Hersh
Director: Eugene Jarecki
Creators: Eugene Jarecki, Alex Gibney, David Holbrooke, Jennie Amias, Roy Ackerman, Susan Motamed
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Biography, Politics
Studio: First Run Features
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 08/19/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2002
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2002
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 20min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews Review
Messian Dread | Drachten, Fryslan Netherlands | 11/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"When George W. Bush wanted to appoint Henry Kissinger as chairman of the 911 Whitewash comittee, a lot of people stood up and protested over this blatant and arrogant choice of the elite.
After all, Henry Kissinger is the kind of guy who has to check out with his lawyers before he enters a certain country, because there are so many charges against him all over the world.

For those who wonder why, this movie could answer a lot of your questions. You will see what Henry Kissinger has done over the years, his involvement in world politics and the games he played behind the scene.
Well done
Nichomachus | 05/29/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I'd read Hitchens' original Harpers essay and the subsequent book, and one won't find a lot of surprises if you're familiar with those. This documentary is a BBC production, sort of triggered by Hitchens' TRIAL OF HENRY KISSINGER, but it is not necessarily a Hitchens-focused work, although he pops up in it. Thus, this is not a polemic and doesn't pretend to draw final and ultimate conclusions about Kissinger. In one of the extras, the director puts it well, saying they're "making a case for a case" against Kissinger. An indictment, if you will, but not a trial. Kissinger's early career is only very briefly covered; the producers want very quickly to get us into his machinations during the 1968 Paris peace talks, and the case for Kissinger's manipulation of said talks to affect the outcome of the 1968 election in favor of Nixon. A fascinating interview with a candid Anna Chennault is included. I wish I could have seen the entire interview (Sterling Seagrave's THE SOONG DYNASTY and LORDS OF THE RIM will help give some background on the Chinese right-wingers that ended up in the US). Nixon's backchannel to S. Vietnam's President Nguyen Van Thieu (and LBJ's knowledge of it via the FBI) is now fairly undisputed. Read Larry Berman's scathing and merciless NO PEACE, NO HONOR: NIXON, KISSINGER, AND BETRAYAL IN VIETNAM for an excellent, primary source-based study on this subject (most of the documents are from National Archive and the Ford Library, since Kissinger still has the lock on his files).The makers here focus on three of Nixon-Ford-Kissingers' Cold War foreign policies: (1) the prolongation and expansion of the Vietnam/Indochina war, (2) the murder of Chile's Gen. Schneider and the subsequent military overthrow of Allende, and (3) the green light to Indonesia's Suharto for the disgusting invasion of East Timor.Various Kissinger dissimulations on these three areas are rebutted with documentary evidence and interviews with various henchmen, many of whom look fairly haunted and uncomfortable by their roles. The dissembling Alexander Haig is Kissinger's most prominent and outspoken defender, but ends up looking like a deer in the headlights, as he simultaneously defends blatantly illegal policies (murder, congressional limitations on arms, secret bombing, that sort of thing), while attempting to deny they happened (through inept legalistic arguments). The expansion of the bombing into Cambodia, and the methods for hiding it, is well-explained. Personally, I understand and somewhat agree with Kissinger's calculation in taking the war to Cambodia. The idea of it as a "neutral" country, while the Vietnamese used it to stage attacks on Americans, is ludicrous. And the idea that it expanded the war to a place where it was already being waged from is fatuous as well. HOWEVER! Wholescale bombing of the agrarian population, Industrial Revolution warfare at its worst, is genocidal in its method (and the documentary hints at Kissinger's direct involvement in target selection, which implicates him in intent as well). The makers skillfully illustrate the effect on Cambodia (the mass refugee flight to the cities, political destablization) giving us a view of the Khmer Rouge's rise that has long been obscured by the self-indulgent ravings of Noam Chomsky. Kissinger's power, in effect, was in riding the top of the vast bureaucratically-minded war machine, from where he was able to unleash massive quantities of power, with no qualitative standards to measure or guage it, and to hold it to account of course (see the excellent recent DVD documentary on Robert S. McNamara, THE FOG OF WAR). Thus, he had the power of a gigantic machine, and no perspective of the nature of the power he wielded beyond the nineteenth century politics he was enamored with. To understand his public ethics, read his first book, A WORLD RESTORED: METTERNICH, CATSTERLEAGH AND THE PROBLEMS OF PEACE 1812-1822, I believe it explains a worldview he's held consistently for decades.The great problem of Kissinger, though, was his inability to distinguish raison d'etat from his own ambition. That's partailly what leads to the trite formulation that Kissinger sought power for the sake of power. It's a bit more complex than that. Ultimately, at the height of his power, it was not realpolitik that drove his decision-making, but rather narcissism. I think focusing on the difference there is essential to any attempt to make a case for war crimes. While I often agree with the political realist that the capacity to be cruel is often a political necessity to fulfill one's role, there is always a crucial point in time where the despotic character takes over, and its cruelty itself finds itself needing to be sustained, rather than the "legitimate" political goals that cruelty is supposed to serve."
The cynicism of power
Steven Hellerstedt | 09/25/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Inspired by Christopher Hitchens' magazine articles and book, THE TRIALS OF HENRY KISSINGER is a fascinating indictment of its title character. It's a fairly traditional documentary, following a rough chronology of events and employing a voice over narrator (Brian Cox.)
Understandably enough, Kissinger wanted no part of this project. His chief accusers are a pair of pit bull investigative journalists, Hitchens and Seymour Hersh. To their credit, the filmmakers follow each accusation with either an archived taped response of Kissinger answering the charge in another forum and/or a rebuttal by former aides and associates, including Alexander Haig, Brent Scowcroft, William Safire and Kissinger biographer Walter Isaacson. Indeed, given the high powered wordsmiths in this one it's Haig who delivers the best line when at one point he leans forward in his chair and calls Hitchens a "sewer pipe sucker."
Kissinger's major crimes, the actionable and the other, are all treated here. Included is his duplicitous behavior while negotiating a peace agreement with North Vietnam while a member of President Johnson's negotiating team - Kissinger funneled information to the Nixon campaign, which may well have tipped the close election to our last Quaker president. The complex story of Kissinger's involvement in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia are treated, as is his decision to wiretap his aides, the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and finally his involvement in events leading up to overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende.
I wouldn't say THE TRIALS OF HENRY KISSINGER is balanced (as director Eugene Jarecki and writer/producer Alex Gibney rightly claim in the "Making Of" special, Kissinger has had 25 years to burnish his image and bury the evidence; this is the other side of the story) nor is it entirely convincing. It deals with issues much too complex to develop in a mere 80 minutes.
I was a little surprised to note that this traditional documentary comes with a commentary track. It's already filled with talking heads and archive images, but I found the commentary just as interesting as the movie. Jarecki and Gibney know their subject and provide many insights into not only the issues involved, but background on material used and rejected.
Fine Line Between Greatness and Criminality
Jeremy Raymondjack | Roslindale, MA USA | 01/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I remember growing up and having no qualms whatsoever about the greatness of Henry Kissinger. I mean, that's the popular mythology: a brilliant man devotes his life to public service, and helps to forge the tough, realist diplomacy that helped America win the Cold War. But as one gets older, and learns how to learn, the facade of many national myths slides to the floor, and what's left is often cruel and ugly. This film lays bare the disparity between what we want to believe about ourselves, and what is actually true. The brilliant German expatriate diplomat is actually a deluded, homicidal madman, drunk on the hooch of power. Kissinger is the perfect illustration of how secrecy and centralized power are the ultimate evils of a democracy, no matter how sincere the original intent. Buy this DVD, then share it with your friends."