Dateline-Saigon profiles five Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists — The New York Times’s David Halberstam; The Associated Press’s Malcolm Browne, Peter Arnett, and the legendary photojournalist Horst Faas; and United Press International’s Neil Sheehan.
With all the high-stakes drama of All the President’s Men, the film chronicles their controversial and groundbreaking reporting during the early years of the Vietnam War as President Kennedy is secretly committing US troops to what is initially dismissed by some as a “nice little war in a land of tigers and elephants.” Five young reporters took on a superpower — and who won?
Involuntarily, they are drawn into a war of their own that pits the journalists against government officials and ushers in a new era of journalism that seeks to hold the government accountable.
— David Halberstam, The New York Times
Today we know the story’s end, but few realized then how important their reporting was, and how our protagonists and their colleagues continue to serve as role models for today’s front-line reporters around the globe.
Dateline-Saigon illuminates the difficulties of reporting war by focusing on America’s most important and controversial case study: Vietnam, the war that established many of the ground rules for coverage of wars that followed and ignited an antagonism between the media and the military that unfortunately endures. The parallels to the challenges journalists face in reporting today’s conflicts — and the consequences of not getting the story out — will become disturbingly obvious to the viewer.
Dateline-Saigon is geared to generations born after the Vietnam War as well as to the generation that lived through it but never knew the personal sacrifices made to report the truth — a struggle today’s reporters continue to face. The “Saigon Boys” have much to teach us about reporting the truth in the face of government resistance.
Dateline-Saigon was filmed over a 12 year period in the United States, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Vietnam, and Iraq. The film features multiple interviews with key characters, some of whom are no longer living, and rare archival motion picture and still photographs, some of which come from private archives and will be seen publicly for the first time.
— Dexter Filkins, The New Yorker