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'Upriver' only shows Kerry at his best


Photo
photo courtesy of think film
"Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry," is another bit of shrapnel in the recent explosion of left-leaning political documentaries. Unfortunately the film concentrates too heavily on deifying Kerry and too lightly on solid storytelling.
By Nate Buchik
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 30, 2004
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John Kerry's experiences in Vietnam may not be more extraordinary or more horrific than those of most soldiers.

However, his actions after the war were at least more controversial.

The post-Vietnam Kerry is the main subject of "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry," which focuses on how the presidential hopeful came to be one of the loudest voices of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Director George Butler - best known for "Pumping Iron," a 1977 bodybuilding documentary - shouldn't be confused with a bipartisan. He never critically analyzes Kerry's involvement during and after his service in Vietnam, and settles on telling a one-sided story of how he spoke out against the war, becoming a national figure in the process.

Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry

6 out of 10

Think Film
Unrated
90 min.
Starts Friday
Website:http://goingupriver.com/

To supplement the interviews, Butler uses footage of Kerry in Vietnam, protesting in Washington, D.C., and appearing on political talk shows. The talking heads, including friends, family, fellow servicemen and senators, give more praise than information. Their love for Kerry is sometimes over the top, like when one fellow Swift boat fighter remarks, "Every day, John Kerry made decisions that saved the life of the men on that boat."

Although this kind of comment could elicit an eye roll, more inspiring words come from Kerry himself, speaking eloquently without fear that his words would be chopped up to use against him.

Let's look at some of the facts we learn (or already knew): After receiving three purple hearts, Kerry left Vietnam. He went on to help start a group, Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The Veterans camped out on the Mall outside the Capitol building, peacefully assembling to get their cause some more attention.

Asked to speak before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry became one of the few soldiers who government officials would listen to (i.e. he wasn't a hippie). The 27-year-old Kerry forced President Nixon and other politicians to pay attention to the growing unrest in the nation by combining a passionate liberal mind with a short haircut and military decoration.

Well spoken, passionate and opinionated, Kerry called Vietnam "a stupid waste of lives for questionable objectives." Why is it that he won't speak out in the same way today?

The answer is, without a doubt, politics. What resonates from "Upriver" is how much politics killed Kerry's spirit. He went from a young, charismatic leader who spoke from his heart to the boring mouthpiece of the Democratic party.

Had it been released a couple years ago, "Upriver" would have been a nice feature for PBS. No matter your political affiliation, the documentary shows entertaining footage of a man who did some courageous things in and out of Vietnam. And he should be recognized for that.

Unfortunately, on the big screen, with the impending election, it becomes little more than a commercial for the left - albeit one that George W. will have trouble matching.



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