Maori TV to Screen The Vietnam War in HD

Despite TVNZ having the streaming rights to Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War, its broadcast premiere will be on Maori TV.

The channel’s confirmed the 10-part, 18-hour series will air in 1080i 8.30 Mondays from February 19.

This is fantastic news as tvnz.co.nz’s streaming tops out at 720p and the home video release will be DVD only.

The latter’s a blow to collectors of Burns’ documentaries. In the past six months, two of his benchmark series, The Civil War and The War, have been reissued here on Blu-ray but his other series, like Prohibition and The Dust Bowl, can be bought on Blu-ray only in the US.

At least you’ll also be able to import The Vietnam War on Blu-ray. If you doubt the benefits of watching ’60s footage in HD, Home Theater Forum thought the transfer “outstanding … with incredible sharpness and clarity, although of course some of the vintage footage shows its age” while Blu-ray.com rated the video quality 3.5/5:

Offers a wide range of visual evidence to support the dramatic journey, working with film and video footage that looks as good as possible. The overall flow of imagery is consistent, merging modern HD-shot interviews (some look better than others) with rare reels of battles and gatherings. The subjects are most defined, offering an adequate look at aging particulars, including wiry hair and wrinkles. Sharpness is also valuable for subtle emotional moments, exposing teary eyes and quivering lips.

Older footage retains filmic qualities, with thick grain. Color is retained in full, with natural skintones and livelier hues on outfits. Vietnam visits offer lush greenery. Delineation is satisfactory. Mild banding is periodically detected.

The Vietnam War enjoyed similar acclaim to The Civil War and The War.

TV Guide dubbed it “a powerfully affecting elegy to a turbulent time”, The Hollywood Reporter thought it “exhausting, powerful, brutal, emotional and occasionally infuriating,” and the New York Times predicted it will “break your heart and win your mind“:

The Vietnam War is not Mr. Burns’s most innovative film. Since the war was waged in the TV era, the filmmakers rely less exclusively on the trademark “Ken Burns effect” pans over still images. Since Vietnam was the “living-room war,” played out on the nightly news, this documentary doesn’t show us the fighting with new eyes, the way The War did with its unearthed archival World War II footage.

But it is probably Mr. Burns’s saddest film. The Civil War was mournful, but at least the Union was preserved. The War ended with fascism defeated.

The war in Vietnam offers no uplift or happy ending. It’s simply decades of bad decision after bad decision, a wasteful vortex that devoured lives for nothing. It was, the narrator Peter Coyote says, “begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculations.”

The Vietnam War is less an indictment than a lament.

If you can’t wait to watch it unfold over the new three months, you can stream it as a box set at tvnz.co.nz.

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