bayonets-barbed-wire

Documentaries are difficult. They have to be entertaining and informative at the same time. Generally no one really cares about them until Oscar time and they want to brag to everyone at work that they “totally watched [insert movie]”. Or if everything else on their Netflix cue has been viewed already. This is a shame, because there are some very good documentaries out there – and Behind Bayonets and Barde Wire is one of them.

Set in the Pacific Theater of WWII the film tells the story of a group of Allied soldiers turned POWs after a hard fought surrender in the Philippines. They were “transferred” to the city of Mukden (now known as Shenyang) in China by the brutal Japanese army via what became known as the Bataan Death March. The men who survived did so despite disease, harsh winters and sadistic guards.

Taking a page from modern documentaries (and the non-alien related portions of the History Channel) directors Richard L. Anderson and Shen Haofang use a mixture of interviews with actual survivors and melodramatic recreations. The interviews are heartfelt and touching as these men (many of whom are easily pushing 90 years of age) remember what they went through and the friends they lost. You can tell by their emotions alone that they can put themselves back in the hell hole they escaped from almost too easily.

If the film has a weakness it is in the recreations. They tend to be slightly repetitive and lack a certain gravity, not to the point where they take away from the seriousness of the subject matter, but they do come off as slightly light considering the subject matter. It’s strange to talk about performances in a documentary, but they are there. Some of them work, some of them don’t. But at the end of the day it does not take away from a very engaging picture.

This Veteran’s Day instead of watching Saving Private Ryan for the 100th time check out Behind Bayonets and Barbed Wire. It is an East/West collaboration that is poignant, enthralling and important.

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