For more than thirty years Ken Burns and his collaborators have produced and directed some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made.
Burns' works are treasure troves of archival materials; he skillfully utilizes period music and footage, photographs, periodicals and ordinary people's correspondence, the latter often movingly read by seasoned professional actors in a deliberate attempt to get away from a "Great Man" approach to history. Like most non-fiction filmmakers, Burns wears many hats on his projects, often serving as writer, cinematographer, editor and music director in addition to producing and directing. He achieved his apotheosis with The Civil War (1990), a phenomenally popular 11-hour documentary that won two Emmy Awards and broke all previous ratings records for public TV.
Following the success of The Civil War, Burns then made a combination of single films, miniseries, and extended series, including the epics Baseball (1994), which won an Emmy, and Jazz (2001). Burns’s later docu-series included The War (2007),The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009),The Tenth Inning (2010), The Address (2014), The Vietnam War (2017), and more.
Burns frequently employed the distinctive voices of well-known actors in the narration of his films and twice collaborated on scores with jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. His documentaries continued to accrue accolades from a variety of film and historical organizations. Many of them appeared on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) network, often bringing it a marked increase in viewership when they aired.
He continually impresses and engages audiences by creating even more ambitious material, including Country Music (2019), which chronicles the history of a uniquely American art form, and Earnest Hemingway (2020) which focuses on the experiences of remarkable people in distinctive regions of our nation, and examines the visionary work and turbulent life of Ernest Hemingway.
Burns has been the recipient of more than 25 honorary degrees and has delivered many treasured commencement addresses. He is a sought after public speaker, appearing at colleges, civic organizations and business groups throughout the country.
He was born in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1975 and went on to be one of the co-founders of Florentine Films.
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