Ken Burns Does World War II


This should be good.

If you are familiar at all with the work of Ken Burns, you know that he is a master of the historical documentary. His greatest and most well-known film is an award-winning series on the Civil War. You can wait for the 9-episode series to pop up on PBS, which it does from time to time, or you can buy it on DVD. It’s not exactly cheap, but well worth the investment.

I hated history in high school. It was a dull and tedious journey from one meaningless event to another. That’s why I appreciate the work of Ken Burns. In “The Civil War” he draws you in to the issues and events of the day, making the war feel less like a list of dates and battles and more like a dramatic personal event. He places the war against the backdrop of human stories, quoting actual letters and journal entries from the people who lived through it — both slave and free. It’s a cliche, but he truly makes the history come alive. If only we could have watched videos like this when I was in high school, I wouldn’t have dreaded going to class.

Burns has also created documentaries titled Baseball, Jazz, and Ken Burns’ America, and you can buy them on iTunes. The ones I have seen are fairly entertaining, but “The Civil War” is still his crowning achievement.

Now, Burns has completed a series on World War II called “The War”, which will begin airing on PBS Sept. 23. If it is even half as good as his Civil War series, it will be worth watching. Burns tries to be as objective as possible, steering away from any politics and propoganda. I find that refreshing in today’s heated social climate where so many topics are fiercly debated and everybody has an agenda. Burns says about his new series, “We wanted to tell the real stories, from the bottom up. No experts, no Monday-morning quarterbacking. You had to be in this war, or be at home waiting for somebody who was in the war, in order to be in this film.”

Visit the official website to watch video clips from “The War” and get more info.


2 thoughts on “Ken Burns Does World War II

  1. …I was looking forward to ‘The War’, saw first episode tonight and couldn’t keep from driffing off. Too bad, it’s very dull and almost emotionless. The BBC’s ‘The World War’ is still the gold standard.

  2. Pingback: Criticism of bias in Ken Burns documentary coverage of World War II in “The War” « Compassion in Politics

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