documentary on jazz

Juan Fajardo fajardos at
Tue Jan 9 22:38:21 MST 2001

Louis Proyect wrote:
> George:
> >why does Ken Burns have a monopoly on the PBS documentary market.
> Actually, it is a duopoly. His younger brother Ric was responsible for an
> ambitious documentary on the history of NYC that appeared on PBS a couple
> of years ago using the same basic style: photomontage, period music, plus
> talking heads.

They are also fairly competitive with each other. I think that they may
have co-developed the Burns "style" that has come to be so copied and
standard in historical documentaries, but since the success of "The
Civil War", Ken has been the star.  A few years ago, both brothers
produced mini-series documentaries on "the West."  In his typical
manner, Ken --whose work I like, I admit, and use in my classroom-- ran
his series, "The West", into nine hours of interviews, lovely
landscapes, poignant stories, and pans across period photographs and
paintings.  Ric made his work, "The Way West", only four hours (in two
2-hr. episodes) and told essentially the same story far better.

I have heard that the two barely even speak to one another, and it may
be so.  In any case, I'd take Ric's work over Ken's if given the choice,
especially since it has long seemed to me that the object of much of Ken
Burn's work lately has been less focused on the ostensible subject of
the narrative than on fueing Ken Burn's star.

- Juan Fajardo

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