Ken Burns on America: ‘We’re a strange and complicated people’

Through war, baseball and music, Burns’ monumental TV documentaries have told the story of the USA – a mission he says is even more urgent in the age of ‘alternative facts’Many birthday presents are rapidly discarded or forgotten, but a gift given to a 17-year-old Michigan high-school student, on 29 July 1970, changed American television.

Ken Burns received an 8mm movie camera, the first step on a path that made him such a revered figure in documentary film-making that, five decades later, his birthday this year will be celebrated with a whole day of his work on the PBS network.If 66 seems an odd birthday to be so honoured, it is because, on the more conventional landmark last year, Burns was locked away editing his latest eight-part, 16-hour series, Country Music, which airs in September.

That work forms, with Baseball and Jazz, a loose trilogy about emblematically American sports and culture.


Read full article