Canadian Women Film Directors Database
home search browse about contact français

Quick search by surname

The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam

Directed by Beryl Fox
Canada, 1965 (documentary, 56 minutes, English)
The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam
Image: © Canadian Broadcasting Corporation / Radio-Canada

Film Description:
"Television documentary film which examines the effects of the Vietnam war on both Vietnamese peasants and American troops. Comments from United States Marines and soldiers accompany footage of: troops searching the countryside for Viet Cong guerrillas; soldiers having their pictures taken with dead and tortured prisoners; a squadron of skyraider jets carrying out a bombing and napalm mission over the Vietnamese countryside and shots of U.S. Army helicopters rounding up prisoners, as the voice-over of an Air Force captain describes the proceedings. Stills of dead soldiers, burned out villages, shots of Vietnamese school children, and footage from inside a children's hospital portraying the youngest victims of the war. Film clips of Vietnamese women and U.S. servicemen in downtown Saigon. Special commentary and analysis from Bernard Fall and Nguyen Thai. This award winning documentary was dedicated 'to the soldiers and peasants for whom the mills of the gods grind slowly and they grind woe'."
-- Library and Archives Canada (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Produced by: Beryl Fox, Douglas Leiterman
Cinematography: Erik Durschmied
Film Editing: Don Haig
Production Company: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Awards won by The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam

Notes about The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam


Quotes by the Director

"One can read again and again about death and hardship, but you can never prepare yourself for the reality of it all. After a time, however, I got hardened to the point that a group of refugees waiting for a helicopter airlift as their village burned behind them became for me a problem of focus and framing. Only at the end of the day do you perhaps allow things to reach you. You recall the face of a child or a small incident that gives you nightmares."
-- Beryl Fox (source)

"There were [...] sparks at the CBC over sending a woman. I had to compile lists of all the women who were in Vietnam and all the women who had covered wars to prove that it could be done and that I could do it."
-- Beryl Fox (source)

"We tend to be isolated about the Vietnam war. We read about it with our corn flakes and forget about it. This film can't achieve much, but if you can do a good film, it's the shortest route to a man's heart. I hope it will give a little more insight, a little more empathy with what's going on there."
-- Beryl Fox (source)

Quotes about The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam

"Midway through the film [The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam], GI's and their officers are shown enjoying some 'R 'n' R' in the bars of Saigon. Edited to Petula Clark singing Downtown, Fox captures the era's innocence and turns it into dark irony. If you thought Coppola's helicopter sequence in Apocalypse Now was divine inspiration, think again: Mills ends with the same swarm of helicopters, but sends them off with Paul Robeson mournfully singing Battle Hymn of the Republic."
-- James Adams (source)

"Showing a distinct egalitarian vision, the film has a fluid, supple, and urgent style rooted in the noneditorializing 'direct cinema' approach developed by the NFB's Unit B filmmakers and at the CBC. Beryl Fox here involves the viewer intimately with her subjects by the most direct of means: faces continually occupy the screen, distinguishing each of the morale-deficient Americans, the resilient farmers and villagers, the captured and brutalized Viet Cong, and South Vietnam's own highly capable military force. Fox achieves a profoundly, persuasively humanist record of dangers, privations, and carnage while showing with clarity the war's ideological and tactical muddle."
-- Ian Elliot (source)

"Miss Beryl Fox of Toronto is a producer of exceptional sensitivity and, with the camera, has caught with searing accuracy the overwhelming tragedy of war. [...] Miss Fox and her photographer, Eric Durschmeid, concentrated on the hapless Vietnamese peasants who have known conflict for a generation and have suffered violence from both sides. But without extraneous comment, Miss Fox also reported the contagion of war's brutality in a sequence without parallel in the annals of television. The sequence showed an attractive and youthful American pilot caught up in the excitement of doing his job. Only this time he was dropping napalm bombs on the Vietcong and was exulting over his intercom on the mission's success in driving the enemy into the open. 'This is fun,' he said."
-- Jack Gould (source)

"The Mills of the Gods, Beryl Fox's searing documentary on Vietnam, was initially shown in 1965, a period when the U.S. build-up of troops had begun in earnest but when the popular media were still speaking in the unified, distinctly hawkish tones of the domino theorists. So the filmmakers displayed great insight in compiling this indictment and the CBC great courage in airing it. Watching then, viewers of all political stripes were profoundly affected. Watching now, after 17 years and countless revisionist arguments, one is even more impressed. [...] The Mills of the Gods shares the quality of all great artistic achievements—time and hindsight only enhance its merits."
-- Rick Groen (source)

"Beryl Fox's hour-long Vietnam film The Mills of the Gods, shown on December 5th 1965 in the monthly series Document, made television history. It was the first of its kind anywhere in the world and it was unforgettable."
-- Eric Koch (source)

"The centrepiece of that film [The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam] was the sequence they did with the guys who were divebombing napalm on the Vietnamese. And Beryl [Fox] [...] then went into the village that they had napalmed and saw the smouldering, still smoking ruins. And the great merit of that was that with cinéma vérité you could do your own ethical balance on what should be included and how the story would come out, without sitting and writing a script, saying this is what you should think."
-- Doug Leiterman (source)

"This was the most beautiful, disturbing and moving work of art I have ever seen on television anywhere at any time. It had the indescribable beauty of absolute truth revealed in perfectly selected counterpoint."
-- Hugh MacLennan (source)

"It was Beryl Fox's powerful documentary, The Mills of the Gods, that galvanized my opposition to the Vietnam war. With my husband and soon a new baby, I marched endlessly against the war. I stopped buying Saran Wrap because it was manufactured by the same people who made napalm. Our home in Toronto became a safe house for draft dodgers. [...]"
-- Julie Mason (source)

"[Bonnie Sherr Klein] remembers when [Michael Klein's] draft notice arrived. She had just seen The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam, one of the first anti-war films during the Vietnam War by Canadian Beryl Fox. The film changed their lives. 'I suggested why not go to Canada,' she remembers. Dr. Klein, then a 29-year-old medical intern, says he was close to going to jail. 'We looked at our options, and Canada was an option. So we got married and went to Canada.'"
-- Robert Matas (source)

"The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam] provides a sobering, provocative, sad, and ultimately extremely poignant examination of the effects of the war on both the American serviceman and the Vietnamese peasants. Among images of napalm, bombs, and death, [Beryl] Fox intersperses moments of quotidian reality for the local residents, of working, shopping in the market, and so on. It is the juxtaposition of the graphic images of horrendous warfare with these everyday goings-on that lends the film its lasting poignancy."
-- Peter Urquhart (source)

"Canada has little to do with the mounting war in Vietnam but the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. turned out a superb documentary produced by Beryl Fox and filmed by Erik Durschmied in 19 foot slogging days in the Vietnamese battlefields and in Saigon. [...] Miss Fox, who won several awards with her Summer in Mississippi documentary last year and served as sound man, grip and at times her own photographer in Mills of the Gods produced an hour of mode and feeling of war without making comment or taking sides."
-- Variety (source)

"[The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam] was one of the first films to deal in a serious way with the impact of the war in Vietnam on the people who fought it (the Americans) and those who were being 'saved' from communism (the South Vietnames)."
-- Wyndham Wise (source)

Bibliography for The Mills of the Gods: Viet Nam

Book Chapters

Brief Sections of Books

Articles from Newspapers, Magazines, or News Websites

home search browse about contact français