Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Vietnam (1988)

play Human suffering or death
Email a link to this page
To:
CC:
Subject:
Body:
clip The war is the news education content clip 2, 3

Original classification rating: M. This clip chosen to be M

Clip description

The slowly disintegrating Goddard family are watching the news. They are painfully aware that their son, Phil (Nicholas Eadie) is in Vietnam as a conscript. The evening news shows the terrible and soon to become iconic photo of the South Vietnamese police chief administering summary justice and shooting dead a suspected Viet Cong on the streets of Saigon. The family is deeply shocked although their responses to this horror is reflected in their different political views and divergent views of the war.

Curator’s notes

The war in Vietnam was played out on the nation’s television screens almost every night. The Goddard’s growing horror at the violence mirrors the state of mind of so many Australian and American families at that time.

The clever device of having Douglas Goddard (Barry Otto) as a senior bureaucrat means that we have close encounters with the policy decisions of Australia’s various conservative Prime Ministers during those years, from Robert Menzies who began Australia’s involvement, through Harold Holt, John Gorton and Billy McMahon.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip, from a television miniseries, shows Douglas Goddard (Barry Otto), his wife Evelyn (Victoria Lang) and daughter Megan (Nicole Kidman) in the living room of their home watching a black-and-white television news broadcast of the war in Vietnam. The broadcast depicts violent scenes, including a South Vietnamese police officer summarily executing a man in the streets of Saigon. The middle-class Goddard family are shocked and their responses reflect their differing political views about the war. Douglas and Megan argue and when Evelyn enters the discussion, Douglas’s patronising attitude towards her further angers Megan. The scene concludes with Megan walking out of the house into the night with Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D’ playing in the background.

Educational value points

  • The clip portrays family conflict arising from polarised views about the legitimacy of military intervention in Vietnam and Australia’s involvement in the war. The Vietnam conflict (1954–75) stemmed from the war for Vietnamese independence fought against colonial France. The conflict became a civil war between North Vietnam, which wanted the entire country to be communist, and South Vietnam, which was aligned with the capitalist West. The USA became involved in the war because it saw the defence of South Vietnam as being part of the Cold War taking place between itself, a capitalist country, and communist Russia and China. The USA withdrew its troops in 1973, North Vietnam overcame the South in 1975 and Vietnam became united once more in 1976.
  • Megan’s strong opposition to the Vietnam War was typical of many people at the time and illustrates how the War polarised families and the community. Opposition to the Vietnam War by Australians began in 1965. A number of antiwar organisations were formed including Save Our Sons and Youth Campaign against Conscription. The first moratorium (protest stoppage) took place in May 1970 when 200,000 people across Australia marched in the streets to protest against the War.
  • The Vietnam War was the first war brought into people’s living rooms by television. The images of the War brought its horror home to Australians and contributed to the success of the antiWar movement. The depiction of the shooting of a suspected Vietcong guerrilla in 1968 by South Vietnamese police general Nguyen Ngoc Loan is one of the most shocking and well-known images of an individual’s execution in wartime. In recognition of the power of television in the Vietnam War, the Australian War Memorial Museum has re-created a 1960s lounge room with a black-and-white television showing images of the War.
  • The Tet Offensive mentioned in the television news broadcast was the turning point of the Vietnam War. In January 1968 during Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year and its festivities, communist troops attacked many towns in South Vietnam including its capital, Saigon. The communist losses were enormous and although in the short term the Offensive was a defeat, in the long term the sight of communist troops attacking the US Embassy in Saigon gave strength to the antiWar movement in the USA, which ultimately resulted in the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam in 1973.
  • Nicole Kidman (1967–) is an Australian and an Academy Award winning actress. Her first film role was in BMX Bandits (1983) and she appeared on television in the soap opera A Country Practice (1981–93). Her role in Dead Calm (1989) led to her first Hollywood role, in Days of Thunder (1990). She was nominated for an Academy Award for Moulin Rouge (2001) and received an Academy Award for her role as English author Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) in The Hours (2002).
  • The Kennedy Miller production company created Vietnam (1988). George Miller (1945–) and Byron Kennedy (1952–83) met in 1971 and formed Kennedy Miller Productions, which produced the three Mad Max feature films. From 1983 to 1989 Kennedy Miller produced miniseries for television that explored stories about Australian identity. These were The Dismissal (1983), Bodyline (1984), The Cowra Breakout (1984), The Dirtwater Dynasty (1988) and Bangkok Hilton (1989).

Douglas Goddard, his wife Evelyn and daughter Megan are in their living room watching a black-and-white television news broadcast of the war in Vietnam.
Newsreader And we warn viewers that some of these violent scenes may be disturbing.
The television shows scenes of violence on the streets of Saigon, including a South Vietnamese police officer summarily executing a man in the street.
Reporter (voice-over) Two weeks after the Tet offensive, peace has still not returned to the streets of Saigon, where shooting and violence has continued daily. Casualties have been high, and South Vietnamese police have performed at least one summary execution in an attempt to head off further disruption.
Douglas That’s disgraceful. Children watching.
He gets up to switch off the television.
Megan Yeah, that’s right. It’s fine that it happens, just disgraceful that people might see it!
Douglas I don’t condone random acts of violence.
Megan But you refuse to see what bastards are on your side!
Douglas It’s a war. Things get out of control. I don’t deny it. But that doesn’t affect the underlying moral and political issues.
Megan He’s the guy you’re supporting! You might as well be pulling the trigger yourself!
Douglas I’m not going to sit here and listen to an hysterical child who doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
He gets out of his chair and walks out of the room.
Megan Oh, go on. Run away. Kill a few more before bedtime.
Douglas marches back in, angrily.
Douglas Now, you listen to me, young lady! I’ve had quite enough. You’re entitled to your point of view, but I will not have you shouting your slogans at me in this house. Understood?
Evelyn I must say, Douglas, I do think Megan has a point. I do wonder about our wholehearted support for the people who do that.
Douglas At least the cameras are allowed on the streets of South Vietnam. We don’t even get a chance to see what happens in the north.
Evelyn There isn’t the level of corruption, for a start.
Douglas Where did you read that, darling, hmm? I would have thought that you’d acknowledge the fact that I’d have a little bit more inside information than you get from reading the newspapers.
Megan Oh, go on, put her down, that’s right. Get your big jackboot and grind her into that carpet.
Evelyn Megan, that’s enough!
Douglas Alright. Do I put you down?
Evelyn You can be very condescending towards me.
Megan The way you treat her makes me throw up!
Douglas Get to your room! Alright. When was I condescending?
Evelyn Douglas, there’s no point going through a list.
Douglas Oh, fine. ‘He hit me, Your Honour, but I can’t remember when.’
Evelyn You very rarely acknowledge that I have any intelligence at all. I’m just the kids’ mum, as far as you’re concerned.
Douglas Not this bloody nonsense, not again.
Megan It’s not nonsense! You’re cruel to her!
Douglas I told you to go to your room.
Evelyn Yes, Megan, go.
Douglas So everything is my fault? No examples, no reasons. It just is.
Evelyn Stop twisting everything!
Douglas Oh, calm down.
Evelyn Oh, that’s right. Bring it back to logic. You can’t cope with emotion. Let’s keep it on your terms.
Douglas It’s not just my terms. It’s the terms of the human race. It’s not my fault you’re out of touch with the human race.
As her parents continue to argue, Megan looks back at them before exiting the house.
Evelyn Don’t tell me I’m inhuman! I’m just asking you to be reasonable.
Douglas Nothing is achieved by flying off the handle. I would have thought you’d have learnt that by now.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer The war is the news from the television program Vietnam as a high quality video download.

To play the downloadable video, you need QuickTime 7.0, VLC, or similar.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before downloading the clip:

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

This clip is available in the following configurations:

File nameSizeQualitySuitability
vietnam3_pr.mp4 Large: 23.2MB High Optimised for full-screen display on a fast computer.
vietnam3_bb.mp4 Medium: 11.0MB Medium Can be displayed full screen. Also suitable for video iPods.

Right-click on the links above to download video files to your computer.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer this clip in an embeddable format for personal or non-commercial educational use in full form on your own website or your own blog.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before embedding the clip:

australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

Copy and paste the following code into your own web page to embed this clip: