Through war, baseball and music, Burns monumental TV documentaries have told the story of the USA a goal he says is even more urgent in the age of alternative facts
Many birthday presents are rapidly disposed or ignored, but a endow given to a 17 -year-old Michigan high-school student, on 29 July 1970, converted American television. Ken Burns received an 8mm movie camera, the first step on a move that procreated him such a revered figure in documentary film-making that, five decades later, his birthday this year will be celebrated with a whole epoch of his work on the PBS network.
If 66 seems an strange birthday to be so celebrated, it is because, on the more conventional landmark last year, Burns was locked away editing his latest eight-part, 16 -hour series, Country Music, which auras in September. That work forms, with Baseball and Jazz, a liberate trilogy about emblematically American plays and culture. Those serials are a peacetime balance to another thematic trio: The Civil War, The War and The Vietnam War, grippingly definitive revisitings of the conflicts in which America was engaged between 1861 -6 5, 1941 -4 5, and 1954 -7 3.
What had Burns learned from selecting his retrospective?” While the floors I have told stretch from the 18 th century to the 21 st, all asked one deceptively simple question: who the hell is we? That strange and very complicated people who like to call ourselves Americans. I’ve had the privilege to work for 45 years in the opening between this two-letter plural pronoun’ us’ and its capitalised equivalent in my country: the US. The opening not to tell time a traditional top-down story- Winston Churchill in the battle chamber- but the bottom-up story of what it’s like to be on the battleground or the street .”