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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Civil War: A Film By Ken Burns(1990)

In the Fall of 1990 I was blown away by the 9 episode and 11 hour documentary The Civil War. PBS aired 2 episodes every night for a week, and every night I would plant myself in front of the television and watched with wonder and amazement. I was just starting my Junior year in High School and only a year or two before I was beginning to appreciate classic, foreign, and independent films. The Civil War was my gateway to the documentary genre. I believe Ken Burns is one of the best and most influential film makers of all-time and this film is his greatest achievement. Every historic documentary made since has copied his style and Apple even has a editing effect named after him. It has great narration by David McCullough, Morgan Freeman, Jason Robards, and many others. The star of the documentary is the historian Shelby Foote who adds great anecdotes and has the insight of a person who lived it. The music is haunting and beautiful and so memorable that you will never forget it. The research and work that went into this is incredible and should be required viewing in schools, which if it is can save the teacher 3 to 4 weeks of Civil War teachings. Ken Burns went on to do many other great Scale Documentaries such as Baseball(1994), Jazz(2001) and last years The War(2007) and they are also extremely entertaining. Burns has also directed many shorter Docs that are just as fascinating(Empire Of The Air1991, Thomas Jefferson1997, Unforgivable Blackness 2004). I just watched the entire series again recently, which could be my fifth or sixth time, and every viewing is like the first. I anticipate a Ken Burns film like I anticipated a Kubrick, Scorsese, or Paul Thomas Anderson film. If you have never seen The Civil War rent it now and watch it over the next few weeks. You will see documentary film making at its zenith and learn so much that you will never be confused by Civil War talk at a party again.

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