Ken Burns - MPSF Speaker Series

One of the most influential documentary filmmakers of all time, Oscar, Emmy and Grammy Award-winner, “a master of timing, and of knowing the sweet spot of a story…”

January 7 - 10, 2019

Ken Burns

Ken Burns

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for almost forty years.  Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War; Baseball; Jazz; The Statue of Liberty; Huey Long; Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery; Frank Lloyd Wright; Mark Twain; Unforgivable Blackness:  The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson; The War; The National Parks:  America’s Best Idea; The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History; Jackie Robinson; Defying the Nazis:  The Sharps’ War; and, most recently, The Vietnam War.

A December 2002 poll conducted by Real Screen Magazine listed The Civil War as second only to Robert Flaherty’s Nanook of the North as the “most influential documentary of all time,” and named Ken Burns and Robert Flaherty as the “most influential documentary makers” of all time. In March 2009, David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun said, “… Burns is not only the greatest documentarian of the day, but also the most influential filmmaker period. That includes feature filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I say that because Burns not only turned millions of persons onto history with his films, he showed us a new way of looking at our collective past and ourselves.” The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of his films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” And Wynton Marsalis has called Ken “a master of timing, and of knowing the sweet spot of a story, of how to ask questions to get to the basic human feeling and to draw out the true spirit of a given subject.” 

Future projects include films on the history of country music, Ernest Hemingway, Muhammad Ali, Benjamin Franklin, the American Revolution, the history of crime and punishment in America, Leonardo da Vinci, Lyndon B. Johnson, Civil Rights, Winston Churchill, and the history of American innovation and technology, among others.

Burns’ films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including 15 Emmy Awards, two Grammies and two Oscar nominations. In September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, he was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

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