In January of 1998, Ken Burns film Frank Lloyd Wright, co-directed and produced with his longtime collaborator Lynn Novick, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film, which tells the riveting story of Americas foremost architectural genius is, according to Janet Maslin of the New York Times, a towering two-and-one-half-hour(s)...sure to have a high profile because of the turbulent, colorful life of the architect and the austere magnificence of his work, which is thoughtfully assessed. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times says the film ...has the unbeatable combination of exceptional interview material and beautiful architectural photography put at the service of an astonishing life. Frank Lloyd Wright, the latest in a series of filmed biographies by Bums, is scheduled to air on PBS in the fall of 1998.
Discovery was released to critical acclaim and garnered the second-highest ratings in Public Television history. This four hour film, co-produced with Dayton Duncan, chronicles the corps journey westward on the first official expedition into uncharted spaces in United States History. Tony Scott of Weekly Variety calls the film ...a visually stunning account...Striking photography, superb editing, informative reportage and little-known anecdotes characterize the latest fine docu work from Bums, and Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times wrote: ...superb...a vast landscape that, even on the television screen, underscores the sense of awe reported by Lewis and Clark in their journals.
Thomas Jefferson, a three hour portrait of our third president, aired in February of 1997. This film explores the contradictions in the man who was revered as the author of the most sacred document in American history and condemned as a lifelong owner of slaves. Walter Goodman of the New York Times said: ... Thomas Jefferson is a considerable accomplishment, a thoughtful and affecting portrait of the intellectual who captured the essence of a new nations hopes in phrases that continue to resound around the world. And George Will, in the Washington Post, said: ...Ken Bums presents a timely corrective, a visually sumptuous and intellectually judicious appraisal of Jefferson.
The series of biographies will continue with the future release of films on the lives Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, and Mark Twain. His next major series, a sequel to Baseball and The Civil War, to be broadcast in the year 2000, is a history of Jazz.
In the fall of 1996, The West, an eight-part, 12 1/2 hour film series on the American west was released. The West is the story one of the great crossroads in human history, a place where, tragically and heroically, the best of us met the worst of us and nothing was left unchanged. Ken Bums was executive producer and creative consultant for this highly praised series, directed by Stephen Ives, which won the 1997 Erik Barnouw Prize.
Ken Burns was the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director and executive producer of the Public Television series Baseball. Four and a half years in the making and eighteen and a half hours in length, this film covered the history of baseball from the 1840s to the present. Through the extensive use of archival photographs and newsreel footage, baseball as a mirror of our larger society was brought to the screen over nine nights during its premiere in September, 1994. It became the most watched series in PBS history, attracting more than 45 million viewers. David Bianculli of the The New York Daily News said, [Baseball]...resonates like a Mozart symphony. Richard Zoglin of Time Magazine wrote, Baseball is rich in drama, irresistible as nostalgia, and...an instructive window into our national psychology. Baseball received numerous awards, including an Emmy, the CINE Golden Eagle Award, the Clarion Award, and the Television Critics Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Sports and Special Programming.
Ken Bums was also the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director and executive producer of the landmark television series The Civil War. This film was the highest rated series in the history of American Public Television and attracted an audience of 40 million during its premiere in September 1990. The New York Times called it a masterpiece and said that Ken Bums takes his place as the most accomplished documentary filmmaker of his generation. Tom Shales of The Washington Post said, This is not just good television, nor even just great television. This is heroic television. The columnist George Will said, If better use has ever been made of television, I have not seen it and do not expect to see better until Ken Bums turns his prodigious talents to his next project. The series has been honored with more than forty major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild, Peoples Choice Award, Peabody Award, duPont-Columbia Award, D.W. Griffiths Award, and the $50,000 Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others.
Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than twenty years. In 1981, he produced and directed the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge. He has gone on to make several other award-winning films, including The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God; The Statue of Liberty, also nominated for an Oscar; Huey Long, the story of the turbulent Southern dictator, which enjoyed a rare theatrical release; The Congress: The History and Promise of Representative Government; Thomas Hart Ben ton, a portrait of the regionalist artist; and Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio. Ken Burns has also produced and directed two films, William Segal and Vezelay, which explore the question of search and individual identity through the work and teachings of philosopher and painter William Segal.
Ken was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1953. He graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1975 and went on to be one of the co-founders of Florentine Films. He presently resides in Walpole, New Hampshire.
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