Hearts and Minds is a 1974 documentary about the Vietnam War, directed by Peter Davis. It won the 1975 Academy Award for best documentary feature. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1974 but had commercial distribution delayed in the United States for legal reasons, a temporary restraining order was obtained by one of the interviewees who claimed through his attorney that the film edit was misleading and that he hadn’t been given the opportunity to approve the finished article.
Colombia Pictures refused to distribute the film (after having initially agreed) and the producers of the documentary had to purchase back the rights and release it through alternative means. They managed to show the film in LA for the minimum duration of 1 week required for eligibility for Academy Awards nomination.
The film contained numerous shocking scenes which upset middle America and helped to stir up anti-war sentiment within the country, and it contained numerous statements from war veterans which directly accused officials of war crimes. For example:
“We’ve all tried very hard to escape what we have learned in Vietnam. I think Americans have worked extremely hard not to see the criminality that their officials and their policy makers exhibited” – Randy Floyd.
It also included the now-famous images of the nine year old Vietnamese girl Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked through the streets after being severely burnt by a napalm attack. The film created divisions among critics and viewers, with some praising its anti-war stance and others expressing pro-war sentiments.