Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ken Burns

Have you seen this film? If not, you should.

Last night Kevin and I had the great fortune to see Ken Burns speak in Pasadena for the Distinguished Speaker series. All I can say is 'WOW'. If you ever have the opportunity to see Ken Burns either in person, or watch one of his many documentaries, do yourself a favor and make the effort. Why? Aside from being one of the most talented and gifted filmmakers of this, or any, generation, he's an awesome speaker as well. Not so much the way in which he speaks, but the passion he has for the subject matter on which he makes films - well, it's truly inspirational. As are his films. Here is a brief snippet of the speech we heard him deliver last night:

"I am in the business of history. It is the avocation I have chosen to practice my craft of filmmaking. Over the many years of practicing, I have come to the realization that history is a not a fixed thing, a collection of precise dates, facts and events that add up to a quantifiable, certain, confidently known, truth. It is an inscrutable and mysterious and malleable thing. Each generation rediscovers and re-examines that part of its past that gives its present, and most important, its future new meaning and new possibilities.

I am interested in that mysterious power of history, and I am interested in its many varied voices. Not just the voices of the old top-down version of our past, which would try to convince us that American history is only the story of Great Men. And not just those pessimistic voices that have recently entered our studies, voices which seem to suggest that our history is merely a catalogue of white crime. I am interested in listening to the voices of a true, honest, complicated past that is unafraid of controversy and tragedy, but equally drawn to those voices, those stories and moments, that suggest an abiding faith in the human spirit and particularly the unique role this remarkable and sometimes dysfunctional Republic seems to play in the positive progress of mankind. That, quite simply, has been my creed, my mantra, the lens through which I have tried to see our shared past, to understand its stories, for more than 30 years."

Again, WOW. Doesn't even just this little bit of his speech make you want to delve into our history with a passionate vengeance?

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