nation

What Drives KEN BURNS?

 

CEO Message

What Drives Ken Burns?

 

Ken Burns, Photo courtesy of Justin Altman

 

Filmmaker Ken Burns, who’s coming out with an 18-hour Vietnam War film to be shown over 10 evenings this month on PBS Hawai‘i, freely admits that he’s a workaholic; that he’s obsessive in his pursuit of archival material for his films; that his detractors dismiss him as long-winded.

 

And Burns can laugh at himself.

 

As he did when he was being honored as the greatest American documentary filmmaker of his generation. Stepping up to receive a lifetime achievement, he joked that he’d prepared a nine-part response.

 

He had to learn about laughter, since sadness and loss were prevailing childhood themes.

 

Burns, 64, is clear about what drives him and his compulsion to look at the past. It is the death of his mother, Lyla Burns, just before he turned 12. She had suffered from breast cancer for nearly a decade.

 

Burns remembers coming home from school or play every day and telling his ailing mother stories about what had happened, in effect sharing life with her. After she passed away, he recalls watching movies with father, Robert Burns, and seeing him cry, which was something his father didn’t do in other circumstances. That’s when young Burns says he grasped the storytelling power of film.

 

In a short video posted online at creativeplanetnetwork.com, Burns says: “I found myself becoming a documentary filmmaker, trying to tell stories and using American history to tell those stories that I wanted to tell. When you look back at it, the job that I try to do is to wake the dead. And it doesn’t seem too far a leap to understand, from that early decision to be a filmmaker, who I really want to wake up.”

 

From the earliest time that he can remember as a child, he says he knew his beloved mom was sick. He was not close to his father.

 

As a young man, he rejected chasing a Hollywood-type career. He says he innately knew, and was taught at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, that “there’s much more drama in what is and what was, than in anything the human imagination can dream of.”

 

Delivering the commencement address at Stanford University last year, Burns explained that delving into history can lead to personal and professional breakthroughs.

 

“The past often offers an illuminating and clear-headed perspective from which to observe and reconcile the passions of the present moment, just when they threaten to overwhelm us,” he told new graduates.

 

Burns wants this newest film with his creative partner Lynn Novick, about the divisive Vietnam War era, to spur national healing.

 

As he told an interviewer from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee:

 

“We caught something during the Vietnam War – like a virus – and we are still suffering from the effects of that virus today. I’m hoping my film is a bit like a vaccination – that it exposes you to a little bit of the disease to permit you to go past it and heal from it.”

 

I invite you to join me in viewing this new Burns/Novick film series, starting at 8:00 pm, Sunday, September 17, on your TV station, PBS Hawai‘i.

 

A hui hou (until next time),
Leslie Wilcoxʻ signature

 

 

A Capitol Fourth

 

Actor John Stamos hosts the 37th annual edition of A CAPITOL FOURTH, from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The all-star musical and fireworks extravaganza will kick off the country’s 241st birthday with performances by The Beach Boys, The Four Tops, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, Chris Blue, Phillipa Soo and The National Symphony Orchestra under the direction conductor Jack Everly.

 

This program will encore at 9:00 pm

 

Alzheimer’s:
Every Minute Counts

 

Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most critical public health crises facing America. This program illuminates the social and economic consequences for the country unless a medical breakthrough is discovered for this currently incurable disease.

 

PBS HAWAI‘I PRESENTS
Biography Hawai‘i: Princess Ruth Ke‘elikolani

Biography Hawaii: Princess Ke'elikolani

 

A formidable presence in 19th century Hawaii, Princess Ruth Ke‘elikolani refused to speak English, practice Christianity, or leave the Hawaiian Islands. Though her life was darkened by the deaths of her children and her beloved first husband, she was a popular and strong force who resisted the kingdom’s drift toward annexation.

 

ASIAN AMERICAN LIFE

 

This news magazine series features in-depth reports and stories of the Asian American diaspora for a general audience.

 

Asian American Life is an in-depth news magazine program that addresses topical issues affecting the Asian American communities nationwide and profiles Asian American leaders.

 

INSIGHTS ON PBS HAWAI‘I
Should We Change The Minimum Wage to a Living Wage?

 

Despite taking Hawai‘i’s minimum wage up to $9.25 an hour – and a scheduled increase to $10.10 effective next year – Hawai‘i’s minimum wage workers are faced with an impossible challenge: the biggest gap nationally between a state’s minimum hourly wage and the most basic earnings required to meet the local cost of living. Should we change the minimum wage to a living wage?

 

Your questions and comments are welcome via phone, email and via Twitter during the Live Broadcast.

 

Phone Lines:
462-5000 on Oahu or 800-238-4847 on the Neighbor Islands.

 

Email:insights@pbshawaii.org

 

Twitter:
Join our live discussion using #pbsinsights

 

VICTORIA ON MASTERPIECE
Young England

 

This seven-part dramatic series follows Victoria (Jenna Coleman) from the time she becomes Queen in 1837 at the age of 18 through her relationship with Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), her first prime minister and intimate friend, and her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes).

 

Young England
On the verge of delivering her first child, Victoria spurns advice and ventures among her subjects, attracting the devoted and demented alike. Miss Skerrett and Francatelli reach their decisive moment.

 

VICTORIA ON MASTERPIECE
Engine of Change

VICTORIA ON MASTERPIECE: Engine of Change

 

This seven-part dramatic series follows Victoria (Jenna Coleman) from the time she becomes Queen in 1837 at the age of 18 through her relationship with Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), her first prime minister and intimate friend, and her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes).

 

Engine of Change
With a child on the way, Victoria must choose a regent in case she dies during childbirth. The Tory party disputes her choice, but she and Albert turn the tables with the aid of the latest in 19th-century technology.

 

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Ruby Ridge

 

Through eyewitness accounts from Randy Weaver’s daughter and federal agents and others involved in the deadly confrontation, examine the 1992 FBI siege at Ruby Ridge near Naples, Idaho that helped launch the modern militia movement.

 

VICTORIA ON MASTERPIECE
The Queen’s Husband

VICTORIA ON MASTERPIECE: The Queens Husband

 

This seven-part dramatic series follows Victoria (Jenna Coleman) from the time she becomes Queen in 1837 at the age of 18 through her relationship with Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), her first prime minister and intimate friend, and her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes).

 

The Queen’s Husband
At loose ends in a foreign land, Albert finds a noble cause. Victoria gets her way at court and resorts to a folk cure in the bedroom. Francatelli does Miss Skerrett a favor – for a price.

 

1 2 3