Film About the Winter Soldier Investigation Is Finally Gettng a Theatrical Release After 34 Years
Like a live hand grenade brought home from a distant battlefield, the 34-year-old antiwar documentary "Winter Soldier" has been handled for decades as if it could explode at any moment.
Now, the 95-minute film - which has circulated like 16-millimeter samizdat on college campuses for decades but has never been accessible to a wide audience - is about to get its first significant theatrical release in the United States, beginning on Friday at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. (Other bookings, including Chicago, Detroit, Hartford and Minneapolis, can be found at www.wintersoldierfilm.com.)
Its distributors say that the war in Iraq has made the Vietnam-era film as powerful as when it was new, and its filmmakers are calling it eerily prescient of national embarrassments like the torture at Abu Ghraib.
Seldom has a film seen by so few caused so much consternation for so many years.
When it was made at a three-day gathering in 1971 of Vietnam veterans telling of the atrocities they had seen and committed, major news organizations sent reporters but published and broadcast next to nothing of what they filed - prompting the veterans to organize what would be a pivotal antiwar demonstration in Washington a few months later.
When the film was finished a year later, it was shown at the Cannes and Berlin film festivals, at theaters in France and England, and on German television. But in the United States, the television networks would not touch it, the film never found a distributor, and it disappeared for decades after playing a week at a single New York theater and a one-time airing on Channel 13.
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