Winter Soldier (1972) – By James L. Neibaur

 On January 3, 1971, over 100 Vietnam veterans gathered at a hotel in Detroit, Michigan in a conference where they outlined the most horrid of experiences and various atrocities they witnessed or in which they had participated. Eighteen filmmakers, calling themselves the Winterfilm Collective, captured the event and created a documentary entitled Winter Solder.

Winter Solider has been seen very rarely since its appearance at Cannes in 1972. And now Milestone Film and Video has made it available through the distribution of New Yorker Video.

Shot in stark black and white, the documentary mixes actual new footage with snippets of the conference where the veterans offer details that certainly will devastate any viewer. The raw emotional power of this documentary’s anti-war message is especially overwhelming in that its DVD release comes at a time when America is once again engaged in a war that has been questioned and challenged in a similar manner.

Some could claim that Winter Soldier is merely propaganda for the anti-war movement, countering the similar claim about so many pro-war films, especially during the World War Two era. Maybe it is. But the fact remains that these are veterans who served in Vietnam and the atrocities they carefully describe are actual events. Even eschewing any political perspective, the documentary itself is exceptionally well done, and will certainly inspire discussion.

The DVD is packed with bonus features, including a current video of the filmmakers on this project and what they have been doing since, several short films of varying lengths about the service and the war, stills, a theatrical trailer, downloadable files, and music.

Winter Soldier should be required viewing in any history class when discussing the era during which it was made.