For the first decade of the new century, Ken Burns and Florentine Films are planning a second schedule of biographical films and one major multi-episode series to continue bringing the pageant of American history to life on PBS. The films will continue the tradition set in the 1990s with the highly acclaimed biographical documentaries Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, Frank Lloyd Wright, Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Susan B. Anthony, and Mark Twain.
Horatios Drive, the first new film, will recount the simultaneously inspirational and hilarious saga of Horatio Nelson Jackson, an eccentric Vermont doctor, who in 1903on a visionary whim and a 50-dollar betbecame the first person to drive an automobile across the continent, heralding the future of the horseless carriage as a vehicle destined for more than inner-city travel and as a machine that would transform American life.
Jack Johnson will tell the turbulent story of the first black heavy weight champion of the world, an uncompromising, charismatic, enormously complicated man who forever changed the sport of boxing, taking on all comers, including the nations racism.
The War will be a double-sized project (three or four episodes totaling 6 hours) that will explore the impact of the Second World War on the lives of a community of ordinary Americans. Presented through the eyes of a group of men and women who lived through the greatest cataclysm in modern history, the film will use their memoirs, diaries and letters along with filmed interviews with living witnesses to bring the past viscerally alive. Rather than be encyclopedic in our treatment of this incomprehensibly vast subject, we will instead focus on how the war affected the inhabitants of one (yet to be determined) town or city. This town will also provide a direct connection to two groups of men who served in two of the companies that experienced some of the fiercest combat in Europe and in the Pacific. Through these interlocking narratives, this film will be an unflinching account of the suffering and unspeakable tragedy of the war, as well as a celebration of the extraordinary heroism and humanity evinced by the ordinary people who were swept up in it, and whose lives were unalterably transformed by it.
Americas Best Idea: Our National Parks (five episodes, ten hours) will tell the human history of five of the nations most important and most heavily visited National Parks (Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Acadia, and Great Smoky Mountains) and the unforgettable Americans who made them possible. Set against some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, each parks story is filled with incidents and characters as gripping and fascinating as American history has to offer. Woven into the series will also be a broader, evolving story of the very idea of National Parks, as uniquely an American concept as jazz, baseball, and the Declaration of Independenceas well as the expanding, constantly changing National Parks system (encompassing stories from other parks) and the growing role they all have come to play in our nation's sense of itself, its past, and its future.