“The Boys Who Said No!”
Screened at the 30th annual Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival (3/5)
Asking young men of good conscience to fight a brutal, unjust war in which they were being asked to slaughter innocents in the name of some vague, masked ideology is a tall order. And, in the days of the Vietnam War, that’s precisely what was being demanded of them – an order that many of them simply could not comply with. Thus was born the draft resistance movement, an initiative that grew progressively stronger as more and more young men refused to be conscripted for a conflict that was becoming ever-more unpopular with the population at large and not just among those most directly affected. Director Judith Ehrlich’s comprehensive documentary on the subject presents a detailed chronology of events in the movement, including its roots in the civil rights arena, along with a wealth of archive material featuring such notable opponents as Muhammed Ali, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Benjamin Spock, Joan Baez, Daniel Ellsberg and the Berrigan brothers and an array of recent interviews with those who were at the heart of the effort. While the memorialization of this information is certainly laudable, the film’s organization of the material seems a little off and in need of a tighter, more coherent focus. At the same time, though, recognizing its impact is important in light of the legacy it has left us, making the case for the imperative need for a society to protest its egregious ills, especially those imposed by a government that is out of touch with the public’s wants and those involving unspeakable deeds out of alignment with what this country claims to stand for.