The Boys Who Said NO!
Draft Resistance and The Vietnam War
Inspired by Black America's crusade for equal rights, young Americans choose to resist the Vietnam War, and openly refuse military service, risking prison to end the horrors of war.
Directed by Judith Ehrlich
Produced by Christopher Jones, Judith Ehrlich, Bill Prince
Executive Producers: Clara Bingham, Robert Estrin, Alan Gould, Robert Levering and Carolyn Leone Levering, Robert and Marie Weissbourd, Bob Zaugh
Editor: Scott Walton
Writers: Michael Chandler, Judith Ehrlich
Composer: Beth Custer
Narrator: Michael Stewart Foley
[Note: Community screenings of The Boys Who Said NO! can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"A powerful message about the necessity of resisting unjust war and the imperative of nonviolence." David Cortright, Intl Peace Studies, Univ. of Notre Dame
[Note: The filmmakers can attend your event, host a discussion, or give a keynote address. To inquire about inviting filmmakers to your screening, please contact ehrlich.judith [at] gmail [dot] com.]
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.
Drawing on original interviews with more than thirty male and female nonviolent activists and historians, THE BOYS WHO SAID NO! 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.
THE BOYS WHO SAID NO! is an overdue and definitive account of the principled and powerful nonviolent resistance to America's most problematic war. These young men risked years in prison to challenge a war of tragic human proportions. Their leadership, personal sacrifices, and example had a direct effect on ending the war, and are an important example for today's movements for social justice and peace.
Grade Level: 10 -12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2021
Copyright Date: 2020
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-73-9
"A compelling and powerful examination of one of the more important aspects of not just the Vietnam era, but the entire history of protest in the United States...This film, both intellectually and emotionally, tells the story of well-known resisters - Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, Joan Baez, David Harris - and more importantly, the huge masses of people who burned draft cards, blocked troop trains, handed out antiwar literature at enlistment stations, and in so many other ways confronted the war machine. To get a more complete and authentic understanding of the Vietnam antiwar movement, as well as the nature of people-centered protest in the U.S., The Boys Who Said NO! is essential."
Robert Buzzanco, Professor of History, University of Houston, Author Masters of War: Military Dissent and Politics in the Vietnam Era
"Terrific film...An ode to the power of activism."
G. Allen Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle
"Wonderful, truly inspiring and informative, with a powerful message about the necessity of resisting unjust war and the imperative of nonviolence. The linkage to the civil rights movement and the role of Dr. King is brilliant and critically important. A fantastic job on an essential film that everyone who cares about justice and peace will want to see."
David Cortright, Vietnam-era Veteran, Director of Policy Studies, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
"This film is a testament to the moral courage of those who refused to take up arms in an unjust war - and were willing to pay the price. At a time of knee-jerk militarism, when Americans are taught to 'thank the troops' above all others, director Judith Ehrlich reminds us of a long tradition of antiwar resistance in U.S. history. Profoundly moving and strikingly urgent, The Boys Who Said NO! should be required viewing in high school and college courses on recent American history, US foreign policy, and the Vietnam War. I can't recommend it highly enough!"
John M. Kinder, Associate Professor of American Studies and History, Oklahoma State University, Author, Paying With Their Bodies: American War and the Problem of the Disabled Veteran
"The Boys Who Said NO! is as riveting as it is insightful. It not only offers a revealing look at draft resistance within the larger context of the antiwar movement, but also effectively captures the domestic tumult resulting from US military involvement in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 70s. This powerful film should be viewed by anyone interested in making better sense of the Vietnam War's impact on American society - and understanding the value of non-violent protest as an instrument of change."
Pierre Asselin, Professor of History, San Diego State University, Author, Vietnam's American War: A History
"The Boys Who Said NO! tells an important story...Theirs was a cause built on fundamental American responsibilities - that we speak truth to power and resist the unjust, unjustifiable, and illegal. It's an engaging, compelling documentary with considerable relevance today. And there's a lesson in it that transcends the Vietnam era: that individual actions can make a difference."
Leonard Steinhorn, Affiliate Professor of History, School of Communication, American University
"There is never a blueprint for social movements - there are templates - and this film is an important one. It's powerful. And it's an excellent classroom resource that beautifully highlights another link on the chain of the long arch of American activism."
Susan Erenrich, Ph.D., Adjunct Professorial Lecturer, School of Professional and Extended Studies, American University
"Finally, an account that shows the diversity of the antiwar movement! History comes alive in this thorough account of draft resistance, its roots in the Civil Rights Movement, and the eventual fusion of the two. Young viewers fighting for equity and a healthy planet will be particularly appreciative of this chance to witness the efficacy of creative nonviolent actions, while those who think they know the Vietnam War era well will learn new details about the coalitions that were formed in the efforts to end it."
Elise Lemire, Professor of Literature, Purchase College SUNY, Author, Battle Green Vietnam: The 1971 March on Concord, Lexington, and Boston
"There's more courage and moral integrity in this documentary than in any fictional blockbuster. The wars now underway and those being threatened are as unjust as those 50 years ago, and with women being added to draft registration, we need more saying NO. We also need to recognize the scale of the horror of the war on Southeast Asia and avoid the foolishness of desiring a draft. Our planet is imperiled by military spending, and the time to learn from and act on the lessons of this film is not in the future. It is right now."
David Swanson, Executive Director of WorldBeyondWar.org, Campaign Coordinator for RootsAction.org, Advisory Board Member of Veterans For Peace
"This is not a film about 'draft dodgers.' It is a film about draft resisters, and these are hardly the same thing. With its rich archival footage and illuminating interviews, The Boys Who Said NO! tells the story - grippingly and with appropriate nuance - of the deeply principled and courageous young people who chose prison over participation in an unjust war."
Scott Laderman, Professor of History, University of Minnesota-Duluth, Author, The 'Silent Majority' Speech: Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the Origins of the New Right
"The Boys Who Said NO! could not be more important and timely: Amid unprecedented social movement activism in the US and globally, the film provides an inspiring and deeply significant example of the strategies, struggles, and stories of the millions of boys and girls, women and men who resisted and helped end the terrible US war in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Watch the film and keep resisting!"
David Vine, Professor of Anthropology, American University, Author, The United States of War: A Global History of America's Endless Conflicts, from Columbus to the Islamic State
"The Boys Who Said NO! presents a deeply researched and engaging portrait of Vietnam War-era draft resisters. It movingly portrays how the personal and political entwined to shape resisters' lives. This film is essential viewing for anyone who wants to understand how collective action ended American involvement in Vietnam and the personal consequences of that action."
Amy Rutenberg, Associate Professor of History, Iowa State University, Author, Rough Draft: Cold War Military Manpower Policy and the Origins of Vietnam-War Era Draft Resistance
"A stand out film...The Boys Who Said NO! is a playbook for the resistors of conscience putting individual belief in combined effort to change the minds of America. Profound and startling in its revelation of how the revolution to justice starts with one person understanding their power to say no. Fascinating because it is a movement from the beginning to end offering lessons learnt to future fighters for justice."
Annie McLoughlin, Showreel
"Shows how bravery and courage are contagious. As this feature presents, it's when one steps out of the pages of history that people can pave a way for real change. Successful resistance doesn't have to be violent, and social change can start from the smallest of acts. An interesting, thought-provoking and ultimately challenging film, The Boys Who Said NO! is not to be missed."
Joel Kalkopf, Switch
"This inspiring and long-overdue documentary explores a decisive era in recent American history...An excellent service in memorializing this enduring portrait of America during an earlier time of momentous inner conflict."
Emily Mendel, Culture Vulture
|DVDs include public performance rights.
The Film's Website
Gala Livestream Event with Joan Baez, Daniel Ellsberg, Mandy Carter, David Harris, Judith Ehrlich and Mac Hamilton
Awards and Festivals
Supreme Jury Prize for Feature Documentary, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival
Audience Award, Mill Valley Film Festival
Audience Award, San Luis Obispo International Film Festival
Best Documentary Feature, Socially Relevant Film Festival
St. Louis International Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival
Brisbane International Film Festival
Boulder International Film Festival
Doc Edge Festival, NZ
Sarasota Film Festival
Global Peace Film Festival
Friday Harbor Film Festival
World Community Film Festival
Citizenship and Civics
War and Peace
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... more Reviews
"Make it a must-see."
Local News Matters, Bay Area
"Enlightening and absorbing...A film that speaks to the present as eloquently and as urgently to its audience as the resistors did to their audiences 50 years ago. The Boys Who Said No! is too important a film to be missed."
Emily Chase, EatDrinkFilms.com
"An insightful and comprehensive documentary. The film is especially prescient today as it dovetails in with the Civil Rights movement and the current issues relating to the racial divide in America and the rest of the world."
Peter Krausz, Movie Metropolis, WYN-FM Melbourne
"A powerful film. Ninety minutes of goodness."
KTVU, Fox Mornings on 2
"Some films are too important not to see. The Boys Who Said No! is one of those films. There are many different kinds of courage. Having moral and social courage to stand up for what one believes in is perhaps one of the most courageous things anyone can do. Watch The Boys Who Said No! to educate yourself on an important part of American history and watch it to renew your faith in the belief that your voice also has the power to make a lasting difference."
"A fascinating documentary about the lengths that a government would go to in order to keep a war machine working, and also the ways in which passive as well as active protest can be a tool of change."
Samaya Boron, Right Now
"A fascinating exploration of the protest movement that helped reinforce draft resistance during the Vietnam War era."
Dov Kornits, Filmink
"Beyond inspiring others, the film demonstrates not only how the movement helped to shift public sentiment against the war, but also that in doing so it had a material impact on the war's outcome...The Boys Who Said NO! is a compelling and well-told story...helping to bring an overlooked aspect of the anti-Vietnam movement out of the dark."
Josh Stride, Power to the Peaceful issue of Resurgence and Ecologist
"Highly Recommended...The Boys Who Said NO! is a powerful argument for nonviolent civil disobedience as a vehicle for social change...This film has potential for use in courses in political science, anthropology, sociology, and, of course, history...It has the potential to provide discussion, analysis, and research for a host of topics, and is an absolute must for any curriculum on peace studies or nonviolence."
Alan Witt, SUNY Geneseo, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Important film...Recommended...With many of the draft resistors age 18 and older, this holds special appeal for young adults who will learn about the Vietnam War and the draft resistance movement."
Sue-Ellen Beauregard, Booklist