I was looking through the Imperial War Museum again and came across this picture of a “BLU-3 anti-personnel (‘Pineapple’) Bomblet.”

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I was immediately reminded of a scene in a movie that was made in North Vietnam in 1969, Tiền Tuyến Gọi (The Front is Calling).

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The movie is about a couple of young professors who are working to find ways to help people who suffer from shell shock. One of them, Khiêm, has been sent to the front to do work there, while the other, Huy, has stayed in Hanoi.

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The movie starts with a scene of Huy giving a talk at the university.

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The lecture hall is full, and everyone likes the talk.

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Except for Huy’s father, an experienced professor, who leaves the lecture hall in the middle of his son’s talk. His daughter follows him, and asks what is wrong. The father explains that Huy’s ideas are not practical enough.

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The movie then takes us to the family’s home and we see Khiêm arrive back from the front.

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He pulls out one of these “pineapple” anti-personnel bomblets and shows it to Huy. Huy then passes it to his father.

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The father inspects the bomblet with a true scientist’s expression of admiration for the technological sophistication that it represents.

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He then shakes his head and says, “Those evil American imperialists will stop at nothing to trample on the people.”

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The ultimate message of the movie is to say that scientists cannot sit in the comfort of a laboratory, separated from reality, and produce good science. They have to engage with the practical world, and for that, “the front is calling.”

My sense is that a lot of wartime propaganda (wherever it’s made) tends to target the hearts of the viewers and tries to stir their emotions. This film does the same but does so through a story about intellectuals. It’s a fascinating movie.