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The Lens of Ken Burns: A Conversation on History, Storytelling, and the Power of Film

Video from The Aspen Institute

"The Aspen Institute’s 22nd Annual Summer Celebration Conversation, featuring Ken Burns: Filmmaker and 2015 Public Service Award Honoree. Moderated by Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of The Aspen Institute. This conversation was recorded on Saturday, August 8, 2015 in Aspen, Colorado. Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than 35 years. Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War; Baseball; Jazz, Statue of Liberty; Huey Long; Lewis and 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; and, most recently, Cancer: The Emperor of all Maladies. Future projects include films on Jackie Robinson, the Vietnam War, the history of country music, Ernest Hemingway, and the history of stand-up comedy. Ken’s films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including thirteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards and two Oscar nominations; and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award. About the Aspen Institute Public Service Award: This special award is bestowed upon an individual who professionally and personally exemplifies the fundamental values of democracy. He or she has a record of coalition building and is a strong representative of the timeless ideals of tolerance, justice, and respect for open-minded dialogue.' from video introduction.

For a list of all of Ken Burns documentaries go to his website:

"Ken Burns is one of the most influential documentary-makers ever. Over the years, he has consistently churned out documentaries on diverse subjects, many of which also highlight social issues. While growing up, his deep interest in history provided the foundation for many of his historical films later. His passion for film-making was ignited as a teenager, when he was gifted an 8 mm movie camera. With the discovery of his passion, he pursued it with all his heart and joined ‘Film Studies and Design’. After graduation, he started a production company and achieved success with his very first film, ‘Brooklyn Bridge’, which was also nominated for an Oscar. His subsequent films cemented his reputation with diverse topics and incorporating a unique style. But it was his first miniseries, painstakingly made over five years that propelled him to iconic status. ‘The Civil War’, a documentary film, broke a host of television records, bagged numerous awards and established Burns as a respected film maker. Since then, Burns has made several documentaries on various topics. One of his most salient features is that he performs multiple roles of director, producer, cinematographer etc. in his films...from The Famous People

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