The Boys Who Said No

Film. Directed by Judith Ehrlich. 2020. 95 minutes.
A documentary uses interviews and found footage to tell the inspiring story and impact of the anti-Vietnam War draft resistance movement.
Time Periods: 20th Century, 1961
Themes: Wars & Related Anti-War Movements

The Boys Who Said NO! is the first documentary film to profile the young men and women who actively opposed the military draft in order to end the Vietnam War. The film shows how their personal and collective acts of nonviolent resistance, risking arrest and imprisonment for up to 5 years, were a critical part of the antiwar movement, intensifying opposition to the war and eventually forcing an end to both conscription and the war.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, resistance to the American war in Vietnam grew substantially. Hundreds of thousands of draft-age men refused to cooperate with the draft. Tens of thousands immigrated to Canada, Sweden, and other countries. American soldiers in Vietnam increasingly refused to follow orders and risked court-martial and prison for organizing inside the military. Claims for conscientious objector status soared to unprecedented levels. Millions marched against the war.

While an estimated 500,000 young men resisted, evaded, or just refused to cooperate with the draft, overloading federal courts, just 10,000 were indicted and 4,000 were imprisoned for their beliefs. These young men were willing to serve long prison sentences on the basis of their beliefs that the war was immoral and human life was sacred.

This film explores the influence of Gandhian nonviolence and the impact of the civil rights movement on Resistance members, a connection illustrated in footage of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. visiting and supporting Joan Baez and others jailed for blocking the Oakland Induction Center in 1967. It also highlights the prosecution and trials of war resisters. Documentary and news footage capture anti-war demonstrations and marches, anti-draft meetings, and men, young and old, speaking out in support of the resistance movement. Smuggled film shows resisters serving time in Federal prison. [Description from film website]


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