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This documentary covers the history of the American West from the Native American tribes to their encounter with Europeans and how the Europeans conquered them and settled the land. In telling this story, the film takes into the account to both the viewpoints of Indians and other minorities to balance the white populations history. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
Burns and Ives combine to produce a work that's very much up to Ken Burns' standards. As a viewing experience, it's everything you'd expect.
And then there's the content.
Much has been made about the supposed bias of Burns' presentation of the history of the west. A lot of time was spent on the way the US treated the indigenous populations, on the crimes of the US military, on the theft of lands, and the systematic attempts to eradicate native cultures. The loss of the age before white settlement is lamented.
Is this a balanced perspective? Maybe not, although I don't think it's as biased as other reviews would have you believe. The triumphs of the west are told as well as the losses. Not all whites are painted as evil, nor are all natives painted as innocent. Events are often just told as they happened, and the viewer is left to draw their own conclusions. A lot of the content doesn't concern native Americans at all.
More important that all of that, however, is that it's a story that needs telling. Americans have been indoctrinated with romantic fictions about the west for over a century. Giving Burns a chance to tell the other side of the story doesn't seem too much to ask. A few Hollywood movies that paint the indigenous people of America before westward expansion as noble savages - also a pleasant fiction, incidentally - does not make up for a century of bias, misinformation, and outright lies taught to American schoolchildren. What's worse is that for the most part, these fictions are still taught to American schoolchildren.
At nearly nine hours, The West is an experience that will take up several of your evenings, but it's nine hours that may change the way you think about American history.
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