While making plans for next season, Chautauquans may want to pencil in “Ken Burns” for Week Seven. Burns is returning to Chautauqua Institution after visits in 2009 and 2010; Week Seven’s theme is “A Week with Ken Burns: Historian, Documentarian and American Conscience.” Burns will be part of all the morning Amphitheater lectures that week. Some of his collaborators from throughout the years will also be part of the discussions.
Burns has been making films for more than 30 years and has directed and produced some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” “The Dust Bowl,” “Baseball” and “Thomas Jefferson” are just a few of his completed projects.
On the Monday of Week Seven, Burns will be joined by his daughter, Sarah Burns, and her husband, David McMahon. All three worked on the film “The Central Park Five,” which premiered on PBS in April 2013. This film is about the five teenagers wrongly convicted for the 1989 Central Park Jogger case, which involved the assault and rape of a female jogger.
“They will be discussing that trajectory of justice,” Burns said, “and I will bring along at least two [of the innocent young men] to have a nice conversation.”
The film opened in theaters in November 2012 and received the 2012 New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Non-Fiction Film.
On Tuesday, Burns will reflect back 150 years to 1864 and the Civil War. He will discuss how the Civil War was transformed into a dress rehearsal for World War I and, consequently, for modern warfare.
Burns said he is currently working on eight new projects, and Chautauquans will have the opportunity to hear about two of his works in progress.
On Wednesday, Burns will have a discussion with Geoffrey Ward, a historian and screenwriter who has been working with Burns on a film project about the Vietnam War.
The Thursday and Friday lectures will relate to a seven-part documentary scheduled to air on PBS in the fall of 2014, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.” The film is the first documentary to intertwine the stories of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, three members of one of the most prominent and influential families in American politics.
Burns is looking forward to returning to Chautauqua, a place he calls “a sacred space,” and to bringing along his family and friends.
“We are coming,” he said, “and by ‘we’ I mean my family and some of my closest collaborators. I am so excited; I can’t believe it has taken so long to get back. Life has a way ….”