PBS Launches "Ken Burns American Stories," New Weekly Series Featuring Burns's Documentaries with Commentary by the Director, Premiering September 30
-- SERIES PRECEDED BY REMASTERED "THE CIVIL WAR" ON SEPTEMBER 22 --
Additional Burns Classics, Spanning Filmmaker's Entire Career, to Follow, Including "The Statue of Liberty," "Frank Lloyd Wright," "Brooklyn Bridge," "Thomas Jefferson"
San Francisco, Calif. - June 24, 2002 - KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES, a new weekly series featuring the acclaimed documentary filmmaker introducing some of his most memorable films, will begin this September after a special relaunch of a completely remastered THE CIVIL WAR, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) announced today.
THE CIVIL WAR will premiere on Sunday, September 22 at 8:00 p.m., and will air over five consecutive nights. KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES will then air weekly beginning on Monday, September 30 at 9:00 p.m., with "The Statue of Liberty." (Check local listings.) Additional titles, which span Burns's entire career, include: "Frank Lloyd Wright," "Brooklyn Bridge," "Thomas Jefferson," "Mark Twain," and a selected episode from "Jazz." Other Burns films, including "Baseball," will round out the series in the winter and spring of 2003.
THE CIVIL WAR has been completely remastered. Viewers will see a steadier, sharper and cleaner film. Burns and his team at Florentine Films have also improved the sound, re-mixing the soundtrack in both a two-track stereo version for broadcast and VHS and a 5.1 Surround Sound version for the DVD release.
The re-release of THE CIVIL WAR will be accompanied by the best-selling companion book published by Alfred Knopf, the Grammy Award-winning music by Nonesuch Records, and a home video box set and first-ever DVD issued by PBS Home Video and Warner Home Video. Each title of KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES will also be re-released on video and DVD.
As with THE CIVIL WAR, all of the films in the series will be remastered to improve the clarity of the image and sound. For each episode, Burns will also provide an introduction, talking about the topic at hand and the making of the film. The introductions were filmed at the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland and in Walpole, New Hampshire, home of Burns's production company, Florentine Films.
The 2002 schedule for KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES is listed below.
|September 30||The Statue of Liberty|
|October 7||Frank Lloyd Wright (Part I)|
|October 14||Frank Lloyd Wright (Part II)|
|October 21||Brooklyn Bridge|
|October 28||Thomas Jefferson (Part I)|
|November 4||Thomas Jefferson (Part II)|
|November 18||Mark Twain (Part I)|
|November 25||Mark Twain (Part II)|
|December 2||Jazz, Episode Four|
|December 9||Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio|
|December 16||Thomas Hart Benton|
|December 23||The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God|
|December 30||Huey Long|
The companion Web site to THE CIVIL WAR will debut on Thursday, August 29 at www.pbs.org/civilwar/. The site will provide a comprehensive overview of the film and the remastering process. In addition, it will feature rich content only available online.
The companion Web site for KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES (www.pbs.org/kenburns/) will serve as a rich resource of background materials about these films. The AMERICAN STORIES site will offer links to any newly created companion sites ("The Statue of Liberty" and "Huey Long") as well as links to all existing Ken Burns film sites, including "Jazz" and "Frank Lloyd Wright."
The AMERICAN STORIES site will also have a Ken Burns timeline (a chronological listing of all Burns projects - past, present, and future); a section devoted to the producers with information on Florentine Films; and a section for educators about using KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES films in the classroom.
"AMERICAN STORIES is a tremendous honor for me," Ken Burns said. "Since PBS President Pat Mitchell first discussed the project with me last winter, I've had the remarkable opportunity to revisit my films - each originally broadcast on PBS - and the filmmaking process in a way that I had not anticipated.
"In the 12 years since we made THE CIVIL WAR, for instance, there has been a revolution in filmmaking technology," he continued. "Working with the same team that helped craft the film, we've color-corrected every single shot in the film.
"Beyond the technology, I've also had a chance to think about the historical threads that weave through these very diverse looks into American history. THE CIVIL WAR captured the country's attention, in part, because it encapsulates one of the great themes of our history: the struggle for human freedom. The Civil War was the greatest event in American history - where paradoxically in order to become one, we had to tear ourselves in two," Burns concluded. "Before the war, Americans said, 'The United States are·' After the war, we said, 'The United States is.'"
"At PBS, we pride ourselves on providing quality programming not available elsewhere," said Pat Mitchell, president and CEO of PBS. "We believed in the beginning and we believe now, that television can be informative and uplifting at the same time.
"Long before the popularity of reality television, Ken Burns brought the reality of American history into our living rooms in a way that captivated the entire nation. THE CIVIL WAR was one of our all-time most successful series.
"Today more than ever, as our nation remembers the horrible events of September 11, we are all stepping back to think about what we as a nation have achieved," Ms. Mitchell concluded. "Ken's films tell the story of that process in all of its complexity, blemishes and all, while also providing first-rate, riveting entertainment."
When THE CIVIL WAR first aired in 1990, it quickly became must-watch television and the highest-rated series in PBS history, dramatically introducing viewers to a watershed conflict that ripped the country apart but ultimately helped forge a stronger nation.
The five-part film went on to win over 40 major awards, including a Peabody, two Emmy Awards, and the People's Choice, epitomizing event television so much so that even Johnny Carson talked about it every night on "The Tonight Show." Columnist George Will said of the documentary, "If better use has ever been made of television, I have not seen it and do not expect to see better until Ken Burns turns his prodigious talents to his next project." The Washington Post wrote, "This is not just good television, nor even just great television. This is heroic television." The New York Times said that with THE CIVIL WAR, Ken Burns "takes his place as the most accomplished documentary filmmaker of his generation."
The film spurred an intense interest in history and contributed to the birth of a new style of documentary filmmaking that effectively combined the careful use of archival photographs, live modern cinematography, music, narration and a chorus of first-person voices into a carefully woven story-telling fabric. Burns had already laid the foundation for this style in such highly celebrated films as "Brooklyn Bridge," "The Statue of Liberty," "The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God," and "Huey Long." But it was THE CIVIL WAR that provided viewers with something they had rarely seen on television. Said columnist Stanley Crouch: "I was actually shocked at the way in which the human events, the photographs, and the talking heads were woven together so well. People were able to sit there hour after hour and wait for the next episode and talk about the episodes they'd already seen."
KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES will encompass Burns's entire career. In 1981, just six years out of college - he attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts - he directed and produced the Academy Award-nominated "Brooklyn Bridge." "Mark Twain," Burns's most recent film, aired in January 2002.
In January 2001, "Jazz," the third in Burns's trilogy of epic documentaries, which began with THE CIVIL WAR and continued with "Baseball" (1994), was broadcast on PBS. Shelby Foote, the historian featured in THE CIVIL WAR, said, "We expected that it would be well received but no one, including Ken himself, had any idea that it would be the big thing it was on PBS. I don't think he could have made it anywhere but on PBS."
"I am fortunate to have such a productive relationship with PBS," Ken Burns noted. "They have consistently allowed me to share these stories with the American public. As a nation, we are very fortunate to have this resource. There may be more networks out there today than in 1990 but there's only one PBS - and no other network would provide such a nurturing environment for this kind of documentary filmmaking."
THE CIVIL WAR is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C. KEN BURNS AMERICAN STORIES is a production of Florentine Films in association with WETA Washington, D.C. Corporate underwriter: General Motors.
PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 349 public television stations. Serving nearly 90 million people each week, PBS enriches the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services on noncommercial television, the Internet and other media. More information about PBS is available at PBS.org, the leading dot-org Web site on the Internet.
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Joe DePlasco, Susan Makarichev, Michele Paolella
DAN KLORES COMMUNICATIONS