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I first understood the power of the documentary during the editing of my
first film, The Quiet Mutiny. In the commentary, I make reference to a
chicken, which my crew and I encountered while on patrol with American
soldiers in Vietnam.

“It must be a Vietcong chicken – a communist chicken,” said the sergeant.
He wrote in his report: “enemy sighted”.

The chicken moment seemed to underline the farce of the war – so I included
it in the film. That may have been unwise. The regulator of commercial
television in Britain – then the Independent Television Authority or ITA –
had demanded to see my script. What was my source for the political
affiliation of the chicken? I was asked. Was it really a communist chicken,
or could it have been a pro-American chicken?

Of course, this nonsense had a serious purpose; when The Quiet Mutiny was
broadcast by ITV in 1970, the US ambassador to Britain, Walter Annenberg, a
personal friend of President Richard Nixon, complained to the. . . .

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