Well, I am glad someone isn’t mad. That’s a short list these days. Maxwell Strachan’s Tagline for this article is: “The “far, far left,” “far, far right” and “third- and fourth-rate academics” are all wrong about America’s most famous documentary filmmaker. Just ask him.” Maybe I am just being cranky but I am a little over the peanut gallery, be they peanuts from the left or right.
Ken Burns is probably the most successful documentary filmmaker in America. I would argue that he even changed the way documentaries are made. I am not saying this because Apple made a filter called the Ken Burns effect and didn’t need explanation. I am talking about how he created these long multipart narratives. There wasn’t a lot of that before Burns and he is still probably the singular most pervasive talent employing this technique. Also the longer Ken Burns has been around the more other documentaries start to look like his.
While it’s completely fair to critique Burns or any other artist, the sort of blanket attack that Strachan and Burns are discussing just make me want to roll my eyes and issue one of two responses. (1) I understand you have a different point of view but can you make it without comparing him to Leni Riefenstahl. (2) Maybe you should make your own beautifully written and filmed documentary to set us all straight. Oh, you don’t want to do that? Why don’t you sit down and eat some popcorn while we watch Episodes I – III of Star Wars. Sshhh!