MAYA LIN: A STRONG CLEAR VISION is perhaps best known as the film that won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in the year (1994) that HOOP DREAMS was not even nominated. This story of a courageous young architect isn't nearly as revealing or memorable as HOOP DREAMS, but it contains
rewards of its own.
Maya Lin, a 20-year-old Asian-American Yale student, was thrust into the national spotlight in 1980 when she won a government-commissioned contest to design the Vietnam War Veterans' Memorial in Washington, DC. Lin maintained her dignity while right-wing politicians and some Vietnam War veterans
protested against her simple black wall covered with the names of Americans who died in Vietnam. Critics felt the wall symbolized a scar of shame on the nation. Nevertheless, Lin was vindicated by worldwide acceptance of the piece after it was built in 1982.
The remainder of MAYA LIN: A STRONG CLEAR VISION documents the creation of Lin's lesser-known accomplishments since the Vietnam Memorial controversy, including the Morris Dees Civil Rights Memorial in Alabama, the Weber House Museum in Massachusetts, the Charlotte Sports Coliseum in North
Carolina, a fountain honoring women graduates back at her alma mater, and a glass landscape sculpture in Ohio. The film ends in 1992, with Lin attending the 10-year anniversary of the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial, still her most famous work.
Those familiar with Lin only through the Vietnam Memorial controversy may be surprised to discover the range and number of other projects she has worked on since then. Director Freida Lee Mock combines archival material with new footage (including many interviews and shots of Lin at work),
creating a conscientious, occasionally absorbing portrait.
Unfortunately, the awkward dramatic structure and barely competent technical handling hinder the film from becoming a truly first-rate production. Granted, it is scarcely the director (or Maya Lin's) fault that the most dramatic event in Lin's professional life occurred at the beginning of her
career (in rousing footage, Lin elegantly dukes it out with politicians, Vietnam veterans, and even Ross Perot on a segment of "Nightline"). And, yet, this opening material makes the subsequent events covered much less compelling, even anticlimactic.
Director Mock might have given the post-War Memorial scenes greater interest had she looked more closely at some of the ironies in Lin's career: that Lin had fought against erecting a kitschy statue next to the Vietnam Memorial during its creation, yet seems oblivious today to the kitsch her own
work has inspired in the veterans who regularly visit the site; that Lin's self-described "special team" that helped her on the Civil Rights memorial in Alabama included no African-Americans.
The main reason that MAYA LIN: A STRONG CLEAR VISION remains worthwhile viewing is that Maya Lin herself transcends many of the film's deficiencies. Her drive, determination, and grace are indeed inspirational. They emphasize that, while this tribute is sometimes bland and conventional, its
subject certainly is not. The film had a brief theatrical release in 1995 before going to home video.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: MAYA LIN: A STRONG CLEAR VISION is perhaps best known as the film that won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in the year (1994) that HOOP DREAMS was not even nominated. This story of a courageous young architect isn't nearly as revealing or memorable… (more)