If you have never plopped down on the chaise lounge or settee of your choice and watched a Ken Burns-Lynn Novick documentary, I hereby give you the rest of the summer to watch as many/as much of them as you can.
Long before I got sucked into House of Cards (blame Claus) and way before I broke into a three-week-long Breaking Bad flop sweat, the only other time in my life I ever binge-watch television is when I have a Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary burning a hole in my tote bag. You see, I use a tote bag when I go up to my local library to get books and DVDs. Nerd. Alert.
The first film that made me do it? Ken Burns’s The Civil War.
If you don’t believe a 10-hour historical documentary from 1990 could possibly be as gripping as the lastest Netflix click-bait series, you haven’t seen The Civil War. It’s one of the most exceptional documentaries ever put to film and, I think, one of the most exceptional films ever made, period. The scope of the project, the genius editing, the way the director brought the material out of myth and into reality to show how that the truth, the facts, are far more agonizing and beautiful and surprising than the myths could ever be — oh, The Civil War just a masterpiece!
And all the Burns-Novick films are like that, they really are. (The whole team has won Oscars, Emmys, Nobel Prizes — I think? — and on and on, so you don’t have to take my word for it.) From Baseball to The Roosevelts to Jazz to The Central Park Five and all the dozens of others coming out of Florentine Films, these documentaries tell the story of this nation. I, for one, am interested in all of it.
This is all coming up because I was doing some research and realized that the next Burns-Novick doc — which I have literally heard about for years — is finally dropping on September 17, 2017 on PBS stations nationwide. That’s just over a month from now! The topic and the title of the film?
This picture has been 10 years in the making. Ten years. Guess how long it is? Eighteen hours. Eighteen! I can’t wait, though saying “I can’t wait to watch the events surrounding one of the most painful times in my country’s history” sounds wrong. But I know I’ll learn so much, that I’ll cry, that my faith in humanity will be reaffirmed. Burns said in an interview that war brings out the worst in people, but that it strangely reveals the best, too.
Check your local listings. All the early reviews say it might be his best film yet. Oh, and become a member of your local PBS station! I’m a member of Iowa Public Television and the WTTW affiliate here in Chicago. When I donate to PBS, I really do help cool quilting shows (heh) and docs like Vietnam get made.