KCPT will present an exclusive evening with award-winning filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick for a first look at their upcoming documentary series, The Vietnam War at 7 p.m., Sept. 8, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland.

KCPT will present an exclusive evening with award-winning filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick for a first look at their upcoming documentary series,  The Vietnam War at 7 p.m., Sept. 8, at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland. 
Tickets are available for purchase online or by calling the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland Box Office at 816-283-9921.
Filmmaker Lynn Novick has been making documentaries about American history for nearly 25 years.
A director and producer, she has been a principal collaborator of documentarian Ken Burns since the early 1990s and together they have been responsible for more than 60 hours of programming. In this Q5, Novick and Burns talk about their new series, The Vietnam War.

1. Lynn and Ken, why did you decide to make the soon-to-be-released documentary The Vietnam War? Why did you describe it as the most ambitious project you have ever done? And why is it important for you to speak at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth about your project?
We feel that the Vietnam War is arguably the most important event in American history since World War II. It's one of the most divisive and one of the most misunderstood. It felt to us that 40, 50 years after the war ended, it was important to take another look at it. The veterans who lived through it are of an age where they can still really remember very well what they went through. It's an opportunity to take a fresh look at a very complicated and important story.
I grew up during the Vietnam War so I looked at it through the eyes of a child. I was born in 1962. I came of age during this time and I knew that something very important was happening but I didn't really understand it or know what it meant. I just knew that it was something very serious and very controversial happening that was tearing the country apart and challenging our sense of ourselves in a deep way. I think it's fair to say that America changed so dramatically that we were really a different country after the war ended than we were when it started.

2. Why have opinions about the Vietnam War been so divisive over the years and why has there been so little consensus among Americans about what happened in Vietnam and why?
The Vietnam War caused Americans to ask some very deep questions about what it means to be a patriot, about what kind of country are we? About are we a force for good in the world? About whether our leaders deserve our support. Just profound questions about the nature of our republic. It became very divisive because those questions to this day still have not quite been answered. We were involved in a long war with many casualties, both here and in Vietnam. The purpose, and the justification, and the possibility of winning the war were all eventually ultimately, deeply called into question.
You have a situation where young men were going off to fight in a war that our country was not sure was right, and ultimately came to question. We've never really been able to sort out these questions as a country. It was divisive then and it remains to this day divisive.

3. How will the series not only honor the service and commitment of our military members, but also allow veterans, their family members and people who opposed the war to convey their experiences and views? Do you think presenting all sides of this controversial war will help to heal some of the divisions that have remained over the decades since the end of the war?
Yes, it was extraordinarily important to me and our entire team that we not repeat the mistake that our country made at the time, which was to confuse the warriors with the war, and that we take the time and make the effort to thank those who serve for their service, whether we like the war or not, whether we agree with the war or not, is really not to do with the people who served it so honorably. That got somewhat confused during the war. Our film certainly does not make that mistake and gives our country a chance to take a step back and say thank you and welcome home.
We also feel that this was a time when our democracy was challenged but also fully engaged and many citizens felt that they had an obligation to question the policies that our leaders had put in place that they thought were not in our country's best interest.
Some of those citizens were soldiers and former soldiers who came to feel that the war had to stop. It was a time of a very engaged citizenry.
Partly because we had a draft  and because it was such a controversial war.
The film investigates what that meant for our society and how those impulses are still with us today.
We think it's important to recognize that there are many people who out of conscience took action to try to stop the war or end the war. That's part of our story, absolutely.

4. Was it time-consuming and challenging to sort through interviews, archival footage, and television news from the time?
Ken and I, and our writer, Jeff Ward, and our producer Sarah Botstein, decided to make this film more than 10 years ago. It's taken this long to make because it has been the most challenging and complicated project we've ever undertaken.
One of the things we had to do was really go back to the beginning of this complicated story, unpack it, figure out what happened, and put the pieces back together.
We all were profoundly changed by this experience. It was extremely humbling to recognize how little we really knew about this important event and get to know people who lived through it who so generously shared their stories with us. That's in the United States and in Vietnam.
We've gotten to know many, many people who were willing to be part of the film, and through their stories, and through the work of our advisors, and the research that our team has done, we have developed a much deeper understanding of the human condition, actually, by looking at the Vietnam War.

5. How did you discover John Musgrave and James Wilbanks and how did they help with the film?
First let me say that Ken and I are absolutely thrilled to be coming to Kansas City to do some presentations at the Army Command and General Staff College with Dr. Wilbanks, and also with the station in Kansas City. We have had the great privilege of working with James Wilbanks for many, many years on this project. He's a highly respected scholar of the war.
He's also one of the country's leading teachers of military history and teacher of soldiers, of Army officers, helping them understand the nature of war.
And we feel very grateful for his service to our country, and for his service to our film.
We got to know him at the very beginning of the project through another professor, Roger Spiller, who recently passed away, who also was at CGSC.
Roger Spiller had worked with us on our film on World War II, and he advised us on this project, and he also recommended Dr. Wilbanks to us, which was one of the great, happy moments of this project.
And we've been thankful for his knowledge both as a historian, and also as a veteran. He's been absolutely invaluable to our process. He's gone to screenings, he's gone to script meetings, and he's just been a great voice throughout.
We've been really excited to spend some time with him, with the students at CGSC, and to have a conversation with them about what happened in Vietnam, and some of the lessons that as Army officers, we suspect are going to be interested in learning.
And we understand from him that there are Army officers there from all over the world. They come to study, and there are going to be some officers from Vietnam. That's going to be really interesting to see, for them as well.
Frankly, going to CGSC is going to be one of the highlights for us. Ken and I have been traveling around the country since this spring, talking about the film, and Kansas City is one of the things we've been looking forward to the most.
And John Musgrave is nearby and he has been extraordinarily important to our project, deeply generous with his story and his time and has become a good friend over the many years we've been working on this. We have the great good fortune to be introduced to him through Sarah Botstein, our producer, whose ex-husband works with veterans. And he got an event with John, I think in 2011, so that we could speak with him.
And I was smart enough to listen to that advice, and talk to John on the phone, and then met with him in person, and then he agreed to do an interview, which was done in 2011.
And it was really an amazing revelatory experience for us to hear his story.
And we're just very grateful for his generosity and helping us on this enormously complicated subject and event.
He's a major force in the film, and we're looking forward to spending some time with him, talking to the community about the film and his role in it, and about his perspective on the war.
He's been generous with his time for KCPT as well, as we've been doing some local stories, so we've been really thankful for his support to our local storytelling, and so I'm glad we’re going to be able to spend some  time at the Command and General Staff College.
We think there are few people in America that care more about learning the lessons of past military adventures than Army officers.
Because they're the ones who have to go forward and try not to make the mistakes that were made in the past, and learn from the past.
And so we're expecting a very lively and interesting conversation, especially because many of the officers that are going to be there, we understand have done multiple tours in recent wars.
And so we're looking forward to some interesting conversations with them about parallels and lack thereof.
We're just really going to be eager to engage with them and hear what they have to say.

— Rimsie McConiga