Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry is a feature length documentary about character and moral leadership during a time of national crisis. Loosely based on the best-selling book Tour of Duty by Douglas Brinkley, Going Upriver examines the story of John Kerry and the key events that made him a national figure and the man he is today. The film places particular emphasis on his bravery during the Vietnam War and his courageous opposition to the war upon his return.
The film traces Kerry’s early life as a young man who chooses to enlist in the Navy and to go to Vietnam. The film reveals intimate, first person accounts of Kerry’s war service through his own private letters, his eloquent journal, and the vivid memories of the men who served at his side. When Kerry came home disillusioned by the war, he and his fellow Vietnam Veterans challenged Congress and the Nixon administration. As Kerry became a nationally known anti-war activist, the Nixon White House plotted to discredit his leadership, but significantly could find “nothing on him,” as Colson reveals via Watergate tapes. Despite Nixon’s attempt to undermine John Kerry’s political career during his 1972 unsuccessful run for US Congress, Kerry persevered, eventually winning election to the Senate in 1984 and receiving the Democratic nomination for president in 2004.
Going Upriver director George Butler (best known for his highly acclaimed films Pumping Iron, featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger and The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition) first realized Kerry’s importance to his generation and began documenting his journey in photographs in 1969, covering Kerry's leadership of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), his early political campaigns, as well as intimate moments of his personal life. The film weaves together Butler’s extraordinary photographs with archival film, interviews with Kerry’s closest associates, and more contemporary images of the Senator at home and abroad.
As a Vietnam War hero and anti-war activist, Kerry’s story is at the center of a defining era in American history. More than a biography of John Kerry, Going Upriver is the story of an American generation that came of age in the tumultuous sixties and that has now come to national leadership at the beginning of a new century -- when issues of war and morality once again hold center stage.