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Ken Burns

Burns, Ken (Kenneth Lauren Burns), 1953–, American documentary filmmaker, b. Brooklyn, N.Y., grad. Hampshire College (1975). Acting as producer, director, and cinematographer, Burns typically explores themes from American history, blending period photographs, artworks, film, and music with narration, remarks by historians and other scholars, contemporaneous writings read by actors, and authentic sound effects. His first full-length film, The Brooklyn Bridge (1980), was, like his subsequent works, shown on public television. Burns won particular acclaim for his nine-part Civil War (1990), a re-creation and analysis of the conflict; it won an Emmy and numerous other awards and was public broadcasting's highest-rated series. His other films include The Statue of Liberty (1985), Lewis and Clark (1997), various biographies, and the multipart Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001), The War (2007), about Americans at war and at home during World War II, The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009), and The Dust Bowl (2012).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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See more Encyclopedia articles on: Film and Television: Biographies


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