(guest post) Nope, not me . . .

I will not watch The War. I love history. I love documentaries.

Quick disclaimer – I’ve produced two (sports) documentaries and collaborated on three others. I am envious of Ken Burns.

bad haircut guy Ken BurnsEvery seven years, this Mr. Burns dude surfaces. Using his Ken Burns Press Tour Thesauruses, he spits out phrases like; “fabric of our society”, “spiritually richer”, “mosaic tapestry”.

Now, are we asking for a definitive history of WW II? Uh, yeah. If you’re going to produce almost 15 hours of programming, let’s put the content into context. Burns calls The War an “epic poem”. FOR FIFTEEN HOURS.

“We left out tons of stuff. There are no German-Americans. No (military) women. No one from the Navy or Merchant Marines”. He also does not include anything from Over There (I know – WW I). The filmmaker is a smart guy. He realized he could title it The War and not have to include the rest of the World.

Already the criticism has started. The Latin community was enraged he did not include anything from America’s largest ethnic minority group. Instead of weaving the Latin stories into the FIFTEEN HOURS, he simply added 28 minutes of material before the credits . . . “so that it doesn’t interrupt the vision of our film” (another entry in the KBPT Thesauruses).

His previous projects were much older (West, Civil War, Jazz.) The subjects had no footage, nor could he interview first-hand participants. For The War, he has both but . . .

I will not watch 15 hours of slow pans and zooms of photographs while some celebrity (Tom Hanks) reads another letter from the front while Mr. Burns adds period music and sound effects.

Rick Reed

3 thoughts on “(guest post) Nope, not me . . .”

  1. Hi Rick! Your essay is well written and well reasoned. It is similar to a critical review in the New York Times. But I disagree.
    “The War” makes no attempt to be a comprehensive survey of the world-wide conflict that defined the 20th century. Its angle is how it affected American lives and people. And it concentrates on the grunts–not the generals–and the effects of the war on four small villages in America. It’s a particular angle in documentary production.
    The comprehensive television documentary series “The World At War” by the BBC about 20 years ago is the definitive, seminal film record of that war that changed the lives of so many all over the world. It includes the war at sea, the Russian, German, Japanese–and yes–British strategies and battles. There was not mcuch about the home front in the 12-hour series, but it’s a classic. And “Victory At Sea” (with a score by Richard Rodgers) and hundreds of other docs have examined that war from hundreds of angles.
    The Burns touch of pans, tilts, and zooms of stills with music and voice-over narrative was not invented by him. As a very young Prod/Dir,I swiped the technic from someone and used it in some programs at WETV in Atlanta about the time you were born. Burns has taken it to another level.
    And PBS has chosen to schedule the greatly anticipated series against the commercial networks season openings. Courage! I’ll be watching to relive what your mom and I experienced a bit of in in our preteen and teen years.


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