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The Boys Who Said NO!: Draft Resistance and The Vietnam War cover image

The Boys Who Said NO!: Draft Resistance and The Vietnam War 2021

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Bullfrog Films, PO Box 149, Oley, PA 19547; 800-543-FROG (3764)
Produced by Christopher Jones, Judith Ehrlich, and Bill Prince
Directed by Judith Ehrlich
Streaming, 95 mins

High School - General Adult
Civil Rights; Law; Vietnam War

Date Entered: 03/04/2022

Reviewed by Alan Witt, Business Librarian, SUNY Geneseo

The Boys Who Said NO! uses the stories of select draft resistance activists to tell a broader story about the overall efficacy of organizing and non-violence. It is very effective at this task, pairing emotionally evocative moments from the interviewees with stirring historical footage to methodically build a case for the effectiveness of these tactics in contrast to militant violence.

Visually, it is comprised of the standard combination of interviews, historical footage and photos, and voiceovers tied together with historical music. There are some innovations: where photos are used, the documentary uses camera work and VFX to make the photos come alive, moving the camera angle from within them to give depth and a 3D effect. This is particularly evocative in iconic photos like the Kent State Massacre, as it imbues the moments with movement and activity that underscore the film's overall commitment to active resistance over passive acceptance.

Taken as a whole, The Boys Who Said NO! is a powerful argument for nonviolent civil disobedience as a vehicle for social change. It ends its runtime with clips from modern protest movements, drawing a clear and distinct connection between the tactics of the draft resistors and those movements.

This film has potential for use in courses in political science, anthropology, sociology, and, of course, history. Its main weakness is the runtime, which renders it difficult to use as a whole within the confines of a 75-minute class. However, as a course assignment, it has the potential to provide discussion, analysis, and research for a host of topics, and is an absolute must for any curriculum on peace studies or nonviolence.

Supreme Jury Prize for Feature Documentary, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival; Audience Award, Mill Valley Film Festival; Audience Award, San Luis Obispo International Film Festival; Best Documentary Feature, Socially Relevant Film Festival

Published and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Anyone can use these reviews, so long as they comply with the terms of the license.