In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was installed at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., a gash of black granite that stood for a wound in the nation's psyche. The war had ended only seven years prior, and the memorial, which spoke of tragedy rather than heroism, was angrily opposed by critics who deemed it dishonorable. Some urged changes. Maya Lin, the 21-year-old Yale architecture undergrad whose design had won a blind competition, refused to compromise her vision.
The rightness of her decision became apparent after the wall opened, and it quickly became an icon and a site of pilgrimage for soldiers and families. Its simple, understated geometry changed the conception of what a memorial can look like; for comparison, take a short walk to the Korean War Veterans Memorial, a hodgepodge of statuary and abstraction that's simultaneously a pale homage to and a giant step backward from Lin's design. This film, directed by Freida Lee Mock, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1995. The free screening starts at 7 p.m. —Marc Maximov