Ken Burns
Ken Burns

Ken Burns' Career: Part I of a Retrospective Series

Friday, 9:30 a.m. (New Starting Time!), Library 3021

Allan Keown, Joyce Mundel

Calling all Ken Burns fans and wanna-be fans! Please join us as we celebrate one of our nation's most prolific and beloved directors and producers of documentary films and miniseries. Ken has crafted 22 documentaries and documentary miniseries since 1981, with five more in production for 2014-19. This spring we shall begin with Part I of a retrospective journey back through his career, viewing his most recent works: The Address (2014; Yosemite: A Gathering of Spirit (2013); The Central Park Five (2012); The Dust Bowl (2012; two episodes); Prohibition (2011; three episodes); and The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009; six episodes). You can also see the schedule in the Renaissance Recorder newsletter. This is a drop-in seminar with no sign-up or presentation requirements.


Feb. 7: Yosemite: A Gathering of Spirit (12/8/13, 1 episode)
The important story told in Yosemite: A Gathering of Spirit focuses on individuals spiritually tied to Yosemite and how their efforts laid the groundwork for Yosemite National Park and planted the seed for the idea of other national and international parks. Visionary Americans like Abraham Lincoln, Galen Clark, John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt understood that the wonders of the American wilderness are not only our inheritance but also our responsibility. Renowned filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan narrated, directed, wrote, and produced this film that brings to life this amazing time in America’s conservation history.
Feb. 14: The Central Park Five (2012, 1 episode)
This film tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City's Central Park in 1989. It chronicles The Central Park Jogger case for the first time from the perspective of these five teenagers whose lives were upended by this miscarriage of justice.
Feb. 21: The Dust Bowl (2012, 240 minutes; episode 1/2)
This film chronicles the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history, in which the frenzied wheat boom of the "Great Plow-Up," followed by a decade-long drought during the 1930s, nearly swept away the breadbasket of the nation. Vivid interviews with 26 survivors of those hard times, combined with dramatic photographs and seldom-seen movie footage, bring to life stories of incredible human suffering and equally incredible human perseverance. It is also a morality tale about our relationship to the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our peril.
Feb. 28: The Dust Bowl (episode 2/2)
See description above.
March 7: Prohibition (2011, 5.5 hours; episode 1/3)
This film tells the story of the rise, rule, and fall of the Eighteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the entire era it encompassed. It is a compelling saga that goes far beyond the oft-told tales of gangsters, rumrunners, flappers and speakeasies to reveal a complicated and divided nation in the throes of momentous transformation. The film raises vital questions that are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago—about means and ends, individual rights and responsibilities, the proper role of government and finally, who is—and who is not—a real American.
March 14: Prohibition (episode 2/3)
See description above.
March 21: Prohibition (episode 3/3)
See description above.
March 28:
Spring Break; No Seminars.
April 4: Baseball: The Tenth Inning (2010, 4 hours, episode 1/2)
This film tells the tumultuous story of the national pastime from the 1990s to the present day. Introducing an unforgettable array of players, teams and fans, the film showcases the era's extraordinary accomplishments and heroics, as well as its devastating losses and disappointments. Combining extraordinary highlights, stunning still photographs, and insightful commentary by players, managers and fans, it interweaves the story of the national pastime with the story of America.
April 11: Baseball: The Tenth Inning (episode 2/2)
See description above.
April 18: The Address (1 episode, airing April 15 on PBS)
This session will be a discussion of the film (shown April 15 on PBS) that tells the story of a tiny school in Putney, Vermont, the Greenwood School, where each year the students are encouraged to practice, memorize and recite The Gettysburg Address. In its exploration of the Greenwood School, the film also unlocks the history, context and importance of President Lincoln's most powerful address.
April 25: The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009; 12 hours, episode 1/6)
This film is a six-episode series produced by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan and written by Dayton Duncan. It was filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales—from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska. It is, nonetheless, a story of people: people from every conceivable background—rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists, and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.
Episode One is The Scripture of Nature (1851-1890). In 1851, a band of Indian fighters in California encounters a place of astonishing beauty, setting in motion events that bring other newcomers to Yosemite Valley: artists, writers, entrepreneurs, tourists and eventually John Muir, who becomes a national voice for preservation. Meanwhile, reports emerge from Wyoming Territory of a fantastical place at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River. An exploration confirms the rumors, and in 1872, Congress creates the world' first national park at Yellowstone, but does nothing to provide for its protection. In 18867, Gen. Phil Sheridan and the U.S. Cavalry ride to the park's rescue.
May 2: The National Parks: America's Best Idea (episode 2/6)
The Last Refuge (1890-1915). At the end of the 19th century, some Americans began to question the nation's headlong rush across the continent that has devastated forests and ravaged entire species of animals. Conservation's greatest champion is the new president, Theodore Roosevelt, who creates parks and wildlife refuges, and then audaciously uses the Antiquities Act to set aside 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon as a national monument. John Muir fights the battle of his life to prevent the city of San Francisco from burying the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park under a reservoir and he dies broken-hearted after he loses.