|Stephen's got Ken Burns, who (this time) has two documentaries out. The Central Park Five is a collaboration with his daughter (her book came out last year). For those of you who aren't New Yorkers (/old), here's the summary (via RottenTomatoes):
In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged for brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling it "the crime of the century." But the truth about what really happened didn't become clear until after the five had spent years in prison for a crime they didn't commit. With THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, this story of injustice finally gets the telling it deserves. Based on Sarah Burns' best-selling book and co-directed by her husband David McMahon and father, the beloved doc filmmaker Ken Burns, this incendiary film tells the riveting tale of innocent young men scapegoated for a heinous crime, and serves as a mirror for our times.
The seven reviews up at RT have it at 100% -- not a huge number of reviews, but it's been showing at film festivals & getting great responses. There's a trailer but I couldn't manage towatch the entire thing.
Some interesting headlines (etc) on this:
Ken Burns on controversial doc, "The Central Park Five"
Filmmaker Ken Burns speaks to John Miller and the "CBS This Morning" co-hosts about his controversial new documentary, "The Central Park Five," and how he's responding to NYC's subpoena of the film's footage. (video)
After Botching Central Park Five Case, City Goes After Filmmakers Who Told the Tale (NY Observer)
Ken Burns Refuses to Hand Over 'Central Park Five' Research to City
And this differences in these googleblurb snippet headlines seemed classic:
...The city is defending an eight-year-old $50 million lawsuit filed by the five men who were convicted, but later set free, on charges of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989. A subpoena request was filed by the city in hope of gaining something that could boost its defense that authorities were relying on the best information available at the time.
But the filmmakers, including Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, are objecting to the city's demands, saying that officials were given opportunites to participate in the making of the film and, after denying interview requests, are now on a fishing expedition.
In a motion to quash subpoenas filed late last week, Florentine Films cites reporter's privilege and says the city hasn't articulated a good reason why it needs footage...(Hollywood Reporter)
The other documentary is The Dust Bowl, which'll be on PBS next week. Here's from SeattlePI.com:
Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl as climate warning
America's Dust Bowl disaster of the 1930's , which hit five states of the country's heartland, had a reach that spanned the country from one coast to the other. It blew soil particles to the East Coast and out to ships in the Atlantic, and sent suddenly impoverished people fleeing to the West Coast...
"The Dust Bowl" will be seen, at four hours length, next Sunday and Monday nights, November 18 and 19... It should be watched particularly by those who deny the mounting body of evidence that man can cause climate change, and that climate change can bring catastrophe.
"The Dust Bowl undoubtedly is the greatest man-made ecological disaster in American history," Burns said...
Burns followed in footsteps of Seattle-based writer Tim Egan -- Egan won a National Book Award for "The Worst Hard Time" -- and combed the Southwest for survivors. He interviewed 29, of whom 26 appear on the program...
He found them, as did Egan, just in time. "We've lost at least a half dozen of the people who appear in this film," Burns added.
Burns does not make documentaries to carry a message. Always, however, history delivers a message...
With "The Dust Bowl", the disaster unleashed by man takes the breath away.
This is on a scale far beyond the Gulf oil spill, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the most destructive hurricane taken alone. The winds blew for years. The soil that had been plowed up blew away -- forever. People kept waiting for the drought to end and rains to return. It didn't happen.
"It is an extraordinary cautionary tale, one that we should ponder now: We have experienced a prolonged drought in the heart of the country, strongs of exaggerated ferocity, and the hottest months since we began keeping records," said Burns.
"I look on history as the opportunity for civil discourse. I hope this experience -- the Dust Bowl -- launches a conversation about the long-term planning that human beings don't like to do, but are required to do to save ourselves from ourselves."
In the 1930's -- as in the early 21st Century -- residents of the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles bought into the idea of self-reliance, of independence, of hostility to "handouts" from government.
When the dark clouds descended, however, "The only mitigating factor was the U.S. government," Burns said. "Food came from the government's surplus. The only source of work was the WPA. The government went about the culling of cattle, providing at least a little income. It taught contour plowing. Millions of trees were planted as shelter belts.
"Government was, and is, the glue that held a sturdy independent people together."
Brian Lowry at Variety (!) brings up the political thing:
A devastating economic downturn. Widespread government assistance. Financial hucksters. And an ecological disaster fueled by man-made factors.
Chances are there'll be more interesting stuff (mixed in with the cut-and-paste PR releases) out there before it airs Sunday.
Filmmaker Ken Burns has always had a knack for finding the real-world resonance in his historical documentaries, including "Prohibition" and his great, exhausting war epics, "The Civil War" and "The War" (about World War II). Yet there's perhaps an extra measure of relevance to "The Dust Bowl" -- a two-night, four-hour production for PBS, chronicling the weather patterns and misguided farming techniques that, coupled with the Depression, turned a vast swath of America into a virtual wasteland.
For conservatives, the inevitable attention any Burns doc generates -- coming on the heels of President Obama's reelection -- might feel like a dusting of salt in an open wound.
"Dust Bowl" takes on an additional dimension when viewed in the context of PBS..
While "Dust Bowl" is easy enough to appreciate on its own merits, its broader messages are unavoidable. This was a time when wide-scale welfare from the federal government was desperately needed. Moreover, there's a cautionary warning about greedily strip-mining the land, which dovetails with environmental and climate-change concerns fueled by ever-more-destructive storms, most recently hurricane Sandy.
A more subtle aspect of "Dust Bowl," though, has to do with its demographics, and indeed, those of PBS.
After all, the service has earned an understandable reputation for being old and somewhat stodgy...PBS actually fulfills its mandate, and reinforces the continuing need for its existence, in part by catering to audiences underserved and overlooked by commercial broadcasters -- including young children and senior citizens, groups that both fall outside advertisers' young-adult demo sweet spot.
At the same time, those very older demos voted heavily for Romney, while the younger population grows more diverse.
The irony that emerges while watching "The Dust Bowl" is that the witnesses interviewed -- people presumably in their 80s and 90s -- testify to how they benefited back then from the government's intervention. Nevertheless, a majority of their peers supported the candidate whose argument skewed more heavily toward self-reliance, including a surreptitiously shot video in which Romney said he couldn't convince those dependent on public aid to "take personal responsibility and care for their lives."